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Dublin: 15 °C Saturday 4 July, 2020
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21 confirmed Covid-19 deaths recorded at one Dublin care home for older people

Home help workers might be redeployed to nursing homes, said Minister Simon Harris.

120 HSE staff have volunteered to work in nursing homes.
120 HSE staff have volunteered to work in nursing homes.
Image: Shutterstock/sirtravelalot

21 PEOPLE WITH a confirmed case of Covid-19 have died at one older person care home in Dublin, the HSE has confirmed.

St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park, Co Dublin is run by the HSE and cares for older people.

Health Minister Simon Harris today offered his sympathies to residents and staff of St Mary’s, stating: “I can’t imagine how traumatic that is.”

He paid tribute to those who continue to work in St Mary’s “behind a backdrop of huge tragedy”.

Harris said the HSE is providing support to the home, which cares for 198 residents.

In a statement the HSE said:

“We offer our deepest sympathies to their family and friends and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

“St Mary’s Hospital maintain regular contact with families and relatives at all times and this has increased significantly since the onset of changes to visiting arrangements and the first suspected case of Covid-19. We encourage any relative who has queries to contact us directly. Our staff meet daily and are updated on the current situation and provide this information to residents and the next of kin of all residents.”

The HSE said its priority within all its residential care services, including St Mary’s Hospital, is the delivery of person centred safe care to all residents.

The HSE added that a number of residents and staff in St Mary’s Hospital have tested positive for Covid-19, and that the figure is changing daily.

Testing of residents and staff within St Mary’s Hospital is taking place, with the HSE stating that St Mary’s Hospital is receiving a daily delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE).

An infection control team has visited St Mary’s Hospital, and there is multiple ongoing daily communications and sharing of all available resources and information to assist with managing the outbreak, according to the HSE. 

Harris held talks with medical leaders from across the country on how to provide ongoing hospital care to patients with other illnesses at the same time as focusing on Covid-19.

Speaking at the Department of Health today, Harris said ICU numbers have dropped to 118.

Just over two weeks ago it was 160, however he added that these are real people, “fighting for their lives”.

He warned against any complacency, stating that he would much rather be told to stay at home today, than be praying for a loved one in hospital.

Nursing home staff

Speaking about the challenges facing nursing homes, Harris said so far 120 HSE staff have volunteered to work in nursing homes. 

“It was a small number. Yes, it is. But it’s also about double what it was,” he said, stating that it was 64 a number of days ago.

“So it’s a significant increase,” he said. 

Home help workers could be redeployed to the nursing home sector, he said, stating that contracts are being looked at this weekend. 

While he said “there’s potential” for home help workers to be redeployed,  he didn’t want to raise expectations. “We need to see how that goes,” he said.

He thanked people working in the home health area, stating they have been really cooperative and obliging and have “put their shoulder to the wheel”.

Harris added that the latest figures show that 284 long term residential care centres are receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) from the HSE. 

His comments come as the minister and the government face increasing criticism about action not being taken sooner in Ireland’s nursing homes. A number of politicians have also said PPE which was promised to nursing homes is slow to materialise.

Earlier today, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and Independent Wexford TD Verona Murphy both raised issue on RTÉ Radio One about nursing homes being told that unless they have a confirmed Covid-19 cases in the nursing home, they shouldn’t expect to receive PPE from the HSE.

Harris said he discussed this issue with Nursing Homes Ireland yesterday, and will be meeting with them again on Tuesday.

The minister said he will be meeting with Nursing Homes Ireland on Tuesday and Friday of every week for the foreseeable future to discuss their concerns and “try to help as many places as possible.”

If people have specific concerns about PPE in nursing homes – there is now a specific contact point in the HSE to deal with any queries relating to concerns about the lack of PPE in nursing homes.

This “escalation point” aims to create clearer lines of communications between nursing homes and the HSE.

“I say this politely, people in private nursing homes are working really hard, but the state stepped in here to try and help, the state stepped in here and said we’re not going to differentiate go because you are private or public.

“If you’re running a private business, you have responsibilities,” said Harris.

Officers in each HSE region look at the PPE that they have and decide how best to distribute it, said Harris.

He urged nursing home owners to link in with Nursing Homes Ireland, and the matter would be discussed again on Tuesday.

It was confirmed this evening that a further 52 patients have died as a result of Covid-19 in Ireland.

This includes 10 ‘probable deaths’, where it’s suspected the person who died had Covid-19, but a test is yet to confirm that.

It brings the total number of deaths in Ireland, including probable deaths, to 1,063. The latest figure includes three denotifications, in which a death was originally believed to be from Covid-19 but has since been confirmed that is not the case.

The total number of confirmed cases has reached 18,561.  

Dr Ronan Glynn said that five Irish healthcare workers have died since the pandemic started.

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