Lessons need to be learned, admits Chief Medical Officer

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has admitted lessons need to be learned from Ireland’s response to the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes.

Dr Tony Holohan was speaking after the Dáil heard that private nursing homes were left floundering during the pandemic due to a lack of knowledge within the Health Service Executive (HSE) – even though the vast majority of nursing homes were privately run.

In statement to the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response, Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) Chief Executive Phelim Quinn said they provided the HSE with “key information, such as the locations of nursing homes, the number of residential beds and staffing levels” as the crisis unfolded.

The HSE and the Department of Health, he added, also availed of HIQA’s online notification system to ensure the timely distribution of information to all nursing homes.

“Currently 80 per cent of nursing homes are operated by private providers,” Quinn said.

“Although funded through the Nursing Home Support Scheme (Fair Deal), the HSE did not know this sector. As a consequence, the infrastructure required by the HSE to support the private sector was under resourced and became increasingly challenged.”

Hours later, Dr Holohan admitted there were “lessons to be learned” regarding the State’s response to the impact the disease was having on the residential sector.

Latest figures show that 54 per cent (884) of Covid-19-related deaths in Ireland occurred in nursing homes.

Speaking at the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) briefing last night (May 26), Dr Holohan said: “We’ll never get everything perfectly right. If there are things to be learned that will help us in terms of that environment, then they will be added to our response and that’s why we’ve proactively put that process in place, because we don’t believe we got it perfectly right.”

There have now been a total 1,615 Covid-19-related deaths in Ireland, after the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) was informed yesterday that another nine people with the disease have died.

The HPSC also said that as of Monday midnight (May 25), the total number of confirmed cases of the virus had increased by 37 to 24,735.

Dr Holohan added NPHET plans to meet tomorrow to discuss the case definition used in testing.

“As of midnight Monday 25 May, 325,795 tests have been carried out,” he said.

“Over the past week, 30,169 tests were carried out and of these 633 were positive, giving a positivity rate of 2.1 per cent.”vSpecial Committee on Covid-19 Response

The latest HPSC data also revealed that as of midnight May 24, when there were 24,629 cases, 57 per cent of cases were female and 43 per cent male.

The median age of confirmed cases was 48 years, 3,233 cases (13%) have been hospitalised, and 7,852 cases were associated with healthcare workers.

Of those hospitalised, 395 cases have been admitted to intensive care.

Dublin has the highest number of cases at 11,894 (48% of all cases) followed by Cork with 1,440 cases (6%) and then Kildare with 1,395 cases (6%).

Of those for whom transmission status was known community transmission accounted for 59 per cent, close contact for 38 per cent, and travel abroad for 3 per cent.

peter.doyle@imt.ie

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