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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd said he wants accountability for what happened in Irish nursing homes.

'Old age matters': TD calls for public inquiry into nursing home deaths during Covid

Many people who died in nursing homes were not properly looked after, TD Fergus O’Dowd told the Dáil.

A FULL INQUIRY into the care of older people in nursing homes during the pandemic should take place, according to Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd. 

Speaking in a debate on the recent easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the Louth TD told the Dáil that his brother-in-law passed away of Covid in a nursing home a year ago this week. 

While his family member was “very well” looked after, many other older people in nursing homes around the country were not, he said. 

“Some weren’t looked after well at all and that is why we need an inquiry, a full and complete inquiry,” he said. 

“Age counts and old age matters, and people who were dying in nursing homes were not properly looked after,” said O’Dowd.

The TD raised the case of Dealgan House in Dundalk town which provides 24-hour nursing care to around 80 adult residents. 

A report in October 2020 found that there were staffing and Covid training issues at the Louth nursing home where over 20 patients died in April 2020. 

The inspection report carried out by the the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) highlighted several concerns about the standards and regulations adhered to at the nursing home. 

Speaking in the Dáil today, O’Dowd said that in relation to this particular home, “it is clear to me and the families concerned that the Department [of Health] is avoiding a decision in relation to this”. 

While he welcomed that the Taoiseach said last week that the department were looking at all options, he urged the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to engage immediately with the families so as “to bring closure” as well as transparency and accountability. 

O’Dowd said he wants accountability for what happened in Ireland’s nursing homes.

“Families of these people that passed in these homes are interested in accountability and they demand it,” he said. 

“If there were 22 or 23 children who died in this home… would there not be a public inquiry? 

“Would there not be protest marches? Would there not be ructions in the Dáil over it – age counts and old age matters and people who were dying in nursing homes were not properly looked after,” he said. 

Proper and appropriate guidance in terms of medical procedure and proper care should be what is learned from the pandemic.

“If that comes out of this appalling disaster of Covid, then that would be an important change,” he said.

The Special Committee on Covid-19 Response said in its final report in October 2020 that the public health authorities were overly focussed on preparing acute hospitals for the oncoming pandemic in February and March 2020 and failed to recognise the level of risk posed to residents of nursing homes.

The report also found that there was a delay in reacting to the situation in nursing homes as well as a failure to provide answers to the relatives of the deceased. 

It recommended that a public inquiry be set up to investigate all circumstances surrounding each individual death due to Covid-19 in nursing homes.

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