Revealed: 'Grief and devastation' of the care homes hit by Covid-19

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Four private nursing homes had to wait almost four weeks to get the results of Covid-19 tests for residents during the height of the pandemic.

The delayed wait times were among a range of concerns found in a survey of private operators published last week.

In over half of nursing homes questioned, anxiety and stress were “recurrent experiences” that considerably impacted on the emotional well-being of staff, it found.

Testimonies from eight nursing homes that experienced large outbreaks of the coronavirus demonstrated a “profound and lasting impact on staff” which “culminated in feelings of devastation, grief, fatigue and being emotionally spent”.

Residents were reported as being “resilient, grateful for staff efforts and accepting” of the situation.

The survey found most nursing homes had to wait two weeks for results to be returned for residents while test results for staff took four to six days in most cases.

Delays in testing have been blamed for exacerbating the crisis in nursing homes, impacting on staffing levels and creating uncertainty for residents.

The survey was conducted for Nursing Homes Ireland, the trade body, which issued a call to private operators to join a new movement to lobby for State funding for the sector.

In a circular last week, Nursing Homes Ireland urged private operators to petition every TD in the Dail as nursing homes “remain to the fore of political and public consciousness”.

It said: “What must emerge from Covid-19 is enhanced State support to improve the support mechanisms to enable you – specialised health-care providers in communities across the country – to meet the clinical, health and social-care needs of people in nursing home care.”

It continued: “A movement is required and we are urging every nursing home to nominate a representative to engage with local representatives.”

The private nursing home sector has seen significant investment in recent years but has come under pressure as a result of the pandemic, according to industry sources.

The body has been pressing for years to increase the funding it receives from the State for residents availing of the Fair Deal scheme, which it says does not cover the cost of care.

Around 57pc of all deaths from Covid-19 in Ireland were in nursing homes.

The State has been accused of overlooking the risks to elderly people in residential care centres at the outset of the pandemic and not including private operators in their response to the crisis.

The survey of 129 nursing homes found that 91pc were “disconnected” from their local community healthcare before the pandemic and more than half had no access to a geriatrician.

It concluded that the pandemic had brought an “overdue recognition that nursing homes were a critical part of the health service rather than simply being a peripheral health-care setting.”

As well as shortages of PPE, it found a lack of critical items such as oxygen and hand hygiene products and chemical/ cleaning supplies because the products were redirected to the HSE or else were in short supply.

Many nursing home operators reported their “dismay” at the “often unfounded” and “negative” portrayal in the media.

The organisation has recently appointed Professor Dermot Power, a consultant in geriatric medicine at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, as its expert gerontologist to promote best practice in private nursing homes.

A panel appointed by Health Minister Simon Harris to examine the State’s response to nursing homes presented an interim report last week.

The expert review panel has to date received more than 100 submissions, about 50 of which are from nursing homes. Others are from individual families and advocacy groups for older people.

Tadhg Daly, the Nursing Home Ireland chief executive, has previously said patients discharged from hospital and the delayed intervention of the Health Service Executive were factors contributing to the spread of the virus in nursing homes.

Sunday Independent

Source: Irish News