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Almost 100 staff and residents in one nursing home test positive for Covid-19, Dáil hears

Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly raised the matter in the Dáil today.

ALMOST 100 STAFF members and residents in one nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus, the Dáil has heard today. 

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman for health Stephen Donnelly said the nursing home has 200 staff, 70 of whom have tested positive for Covid-19.

He said of the 100 residents, 19 have tested positive and four have died.

In addition, three of its kitchen staff and several cleaning staff have left the business.

“It does not know where it can get help, given that no agency staff are available. I imagine every member in the House has been contacted with similar stories,” said Donnelly.

“The situation is very serious. Nursing homes cannot get the staff they need, particularly in areas where additional skills, such as palliative care, are required. They cannot get their hands on personal protective equipment. They are receiving small amounts but that is not enough,” he said.

Donnelly acknowledged the HSE is trying to deploy its staff to try to plug some of the gaps, but much more is needed, he said.

Earlier the Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Dáil that addressing issues in long term residential care is “a big public health issue that we have to get right.”

Listing the supports, he said Infection Prevention and Control Teams are being deployed, there is a prioritisation of staff for testing, including temperature checking twice a day, and PPE equipment is being ramped up. The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet tomorrow to discuss issues in relation to long term residential care, he said.

“We have some of our oldest and most vulnerable residents living in nursing homes and other residential settings. We need to make sure that the safeguards are in place to protect them but also to ensure that we don’t see the risk of infection spreading from there into the community as well,” he said.

Dáil sitting 

The Dail debate began today with TDs debating whether they should sit at all.

Harris said: “I’m deeply uneasy from a public health point of view that we are meeting in this session today.”

He added that politicians should lead by example.

Yesterday, some TDs reacted angrily to the State’s top civil servant criticising the Dáil for sitting today. In a letter to the clerk of the Dáil he said “everyone in the country has been asked stay at home, subject to the limited exceptions which have been published by the Government”. 

“To do otherwise is to risk the spread of the Covid-19 disease and to put fellow citizens, including those working on the front-line in our health service, at risk”. 

Many TDs were exercised by Martin Fraser’s interaction stating that parliament has a role to fill in these times and politicians as public servants are deemed essential workers.

Today’s Dáil Business Committee agreed that today’s sitting would proceed today, and the House would sit again in two weeks time. 

“I think of all the people at home who are adjusting to a very different way of living. Just like them, democratic accountability can operate at a distance. There is no reason it cannot do so effectively. Other parliaments are doing it,” said Health Minister Simon Harris today. 

He said remote working has been carried out in a lot of government business recently, indicating that Dáil work can also be done in this way.

“I will not dwell any longer on this but the days we do not lead by example are days we should regret,” he said. 

A number of TDs chose not to attend today’s sitting which is taking place over three hours. Labour TDs Alan Kelly and Ged Nash said last week that they would not be attending, with their party instead stating that they would support the national effort to stay at home.

While many TDs objected to the Dáil not sitting next week, it was agreed it would return on 16 April.

Independent TD Michael Healy Rae said it is only right and proper that the Dáil sits today, stating that concerns from the public need to be heard.

Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry said commentary by some in recent days about politicians staying at home “has been regrettable” stating that the Dáil is not an “optional Parliament”. 

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it is vital that decisions made during this public health crisis are made in an “open and transparent manner”. He said the public have to have faith in decision makers at this time. 

“Democracy is not an optional extra,” he said, adding that public confidence is needed in decisions during the emergency. 

Countries that have done best through pandemics are the ones that are most open and the most democratic, claimed Boyd Barrett. 

“It is critical that the Dáil sit,” he said. A number of TDs said they were open to the Dáil sitting in another venue if needed or even being held remotely.

TDs asked a number of questions in relation to home care, social welfare, workers’ rights, testing facilities.

Donnelly questioned when answers to the questions would be given to politicians as Harris was not present for the end of proceedings. Minister Josepha Madigan said she had taken notes of the concerns to pass on to Minister Harris.

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