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Staff health checks and more PPE for nursing home staff, but representative group says test results still too slow

Simon Harris has said a lot of the new measures are “already underway” in nursing homes.

Image: Shutterstock/Barabasa

NEW MEASURES ARE being brought in to protect nursing home staff and residents as 24 clusters of coronavirus cases have been identified in nursing homes around Ireland.  

However, the Chief Executive of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly has said it is “not appropriate” that nursing home workers are still waiting days for their test results. 

Nursing home staff and residents are included in the HSE’s list of priority groups for testing. 

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast today, Daly said he is “concerned” about a lack of government prioritisation of the testing issue for nursing home staff. 

He said the quickest results his group had seen for nursing home workers is four or five days from testing. 

“We have reports right around the country at the moment of delays in testing and what the means is that we have staff in our sector who are showing symptoms possibly, and sometimes are out for ten twelve days waiting to return to the frontline,” Daly said. 

He said this turnaround is ”not appropriate for the nurses and indeed the healthcare workers and care assistants in the nursing home sector”. 

He said this issue is “posing huge challenges on an already overstretched sector”.   

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister for Health Simon Harris outlined the measures being put in place in nursing homes. 

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has been asked to help “identify vulnerabilities, places at risk” so the government can add additional supports and resources to nursing homes most affected.

More Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be made available to nursing home staff. 

There will also be a health check for staff at the start of each shift to send home anybody who isn’t feeling well or is showing symptoms.  

Every nursing home will be asked to provide a Covid lead, Harris said. The government will provide isolation facilities for staff and residents outside the nursing home residence.  

Harris said a lot of these measures are “already underway”.   

Hiqa and the Department of Health will be talking further to nursing homes today about increasing staffing resources. 

“We need to make sure that nursing homes don’t become a source of spread for the infection into the community,” he said.  

Contact tracing

Simon Harris said for each new case of Covid-19 identified now, there are just three close contacts on average. This has gone down from five last week and 20 the week before that. 

“We’re already beginning to see the benefit of some of the measures people have undertaken,” he said. 

He said contact tracing for those who are symptomatic will now happen in advance of a test taking place.

So far, more than 30,471 people have been tested for Covid-19 in Ireland. 

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