Anne O’Connor, HSE COO; Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer; and Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain, HSE Integrated Care Lead. Photocall Ireland

Staff and residents in nursing homes to be tested, prioritising those with confirmed Covid-19 case

It comes after a number of residents in care centres died in the past week.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 17th 2020, 6:50 PM

THE HSE HAS said that it will prioritise testing staff and residents of long-term care centres, which includes nursing homes, mental health facilities and disability residential centres.

At a briefing this afternoon, it was announced that long-term residential care centres where there had been confirmed Covid-19 cases would be prioritised for testing; at the Department of Health’s briefing this evening, it was updated to say that all nursing homes and other care centres would now be prioritised for testing.

This was announced after 11 residents at St Mary’s Hospital in Dublin who were confirmed to have Covid-19 died.

A further eight patients who were confirmed to have Covid-19 at a residential centre in Portlaoise, Co Laois, died over the bank holiday weekend. 

Today, at a briefing focused specifically on long-term residential care centres (LTRC), for example nursing homes, the HSE announced a number of actions to help protect residents and staff at these care centres.

Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer at the HSE, said that there have been 335 outbreaks in LTRC centres; of these 186 outbreaks were in private centres, and 112 were at HSE providers.

It’s important to mention that outbreaks are not the same as clusters. An outbreak is one confirmed case, a cluster involves more than three cases.

196 (or 59%) of those outbreaks are in nursing homes, she said.

Among those measures announced were “enhanced testing” at centres, which means that in any residential centre where there is a confirmed case, that all staff and residents would be tested.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry spoke about the emotional toll of the deaths of those in nursing homes, and said that Covid-19 is particularly virulent among older people.

“If any of us get pneumonia, we expect to get a cough and fever, but with older people, they may not get the same symptoms”, because of a weaker immune system.

Each death is a tragedy, and this is an incurable illness, it doesn’t matter where you are. There is no treatment for this disease.

Speaking at the Department of Health briefing tonight, Dr Tony Holohan said that testing at nursing homes would be prioritised above other tests. 

“There will be a focus in relation to those centres that have had experience with this infection, there will be a focus also on staff in particular in places that have not yet reported cases of this infection, and then perhaps also patients in those settings.”

There are around 28,000 patients and 30,000 staff at nursing home facilities across the country; although there are not definite numbers yet available for staff at mental health and disability residential centres, there are around 2,600 beds across mental health facilities and around 8,300 residential places in disability centres.

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