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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

Nursing home owner describes 'heartbreak' of telling families they cannot visit residents who are dying

She said there have been a total of 13 confirmed positive cases in her facility and seven residents with Covid-19 have died.

THE OWNER OF A nursing home in Meath, where seven people with Covid-19 have died, has said it has been “heartbreaking” telling families they can not be with their loved ones in their final moments.

Lucy Flynn, of the Milbury Nursing Home in Navan, told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live last night that there have been 13 confirmed cases of the disease at her facility. She said her requests to have everyone living and working there tested for the coronavirus had been denied up until the weekend.

Flynn said one of the most difficult aspects of the outbreak has been the restrictions on visitors, even for those who are dying.

“When our residents are at end of life stage, most of them have decided – because we have an advanced care plan in place – that they did not want to be transferred so the decision had been by the resident to stay with us in the nursing home,” she said.

She said her staff are very well trained and competent to care for residents at this particular stage of their life

“It was heartbreaking telling the families that they could not come into the nursing home and be with their loved ones, particularly at the very end stage.

The residents’ families come to the windows, they telephone, they WhatsApp, there are video calls but it’s not the same as the human touch, sitting beside the bed, holding your mum or your dad’s hand for the final time. And this is truly heartbreaking.

“The families are very happy that we are there because for the resident the nursing home is their home – many of my residents have been with me a long time, say three or four years,” she said.

“They know us very well, they know the layout of the nursing home, they know the staff – they have their favourites – and that was reassuring for the families that at least some familiar faces were there to be with the resident with their loved one at the end.”

Flynn said after the first confirmed case in her nursing home in early March, 15 of her staff were advised to self isolate and a further 25 have left due to the “fear factor” around the disease.

There are coronavirus cases in around 30% of all nursing homes (around 200 centres), and half of all Covid-19 related deaths have been in nursing-home settings.

Speaking yesterday evening, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said it would not have made sense to have a strategy to prevent outbreaks of Covid-19 in nursing homes entirely.

“This is a very transmissible virus,” he said. “It’s more transmissible than the flu. It’s not realistic for us to think that we could keep this entirely out of nursing homes when we consider that fact.”

“And when we consider the fact that the populations in those setting is [older] and in which infection prevention controls is a challenge – it’s easier to transmit infection in these institutions that won’t be in the population in general – to build a strategy around preventing transmission of this infection into nursing homes and other environments, would not be realistic. It wouldn’t make sense.”

He said that efforts would be focused instead on preventing the spread from one person to another into nursing homes, or within a nursing home.

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