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Nursing home staff crisis 'escalating' as hundreds of staff unable to work due to Covid-19

Just 4% of nursing homes surveyed said they had staff redeployed by the HSE.

Image: Shutterstock/GagliardiPhotography

IRISH NURSING HOMES are struggling to find staff to replace healthcare workers who have been forced out of work due to the Covid-19 crisis. 

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) today released details of a survey which showed how hundreds of nursing home staff have been sidelined due to Covid-19 and have yet to be replaced meaning there is a staff crisis in the sector. 

NHI said that promises from the HSE of staff being redeployed to their nursing homes have not yet materialised. 

The NHI said that a “snapshot survey” of private and voluntary nursing homes across the country found that there are large numbers of nursing, care and other staff now unavailable due to Covid-19.

The following absences were found by the survey: 

  • Senior Nurse: 60 nursing homes informed the survey that 107 senior nurses are absent due to Covid-19
  • Nurse: 102 nursing homes informed the survey that 223 nurses are absent due to Covid-19. Four homes had more than 10 nursing staff absent
  • Healthcare Assistant: 158 nursing homes informed of 427 healthcare assistants being absent due to Covid-19. 29 homes informed of 10+ being absent
  • 122 nursing homes informed of 281 persons being absent from other disciplines

Asked if more people had been made available and redeployed by the HSE to support the existing staff during Covid-19, 96% of nursing homes (227 of 236 responses received) replied no. Just 4% of nursing homes replied yes.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO said: “Many nursing homes are faced with a staffing crisis due to Covid19 and it is imperative they are enabled to meet this challenge. Our nursing homes are a vital element of the health service and the commitment to redeploy health staff needs to manifest. 

“The challenge is likely to escalate as mass testing is undertaken within nursing homes across Ireland and the number of staff unavailable increases. In some instances, large numbers of nursing home staff are becoming unavailable and this is placing a huge strain upon nursing homes and the staff available to them. This is about care of our older people during a national health emergency.

We simply cannot get this wrong. It is absolutely vital the promise that healthcare staff will be redeployed to support nursing homes start translating into feet on the ground within our nursing homes. The support committed by the State is very welcome, with private and voluntary nursing homes providing care to 25,000 people across the country. 

The survey also found that a large majority of nursing homes do not believe the Temporary Financial Assistance Scheme is fit for purpose. 84% of the respondents (205 nursing homes) to the question posed that asked is it fit for purpose replied ‘no’. 

Daly said: “We welcome the commitment by the Minister, his Department and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to constructively engage in resolving issues presenting. We are all striving to ensure residents in our nursing homes receive the most appropriate and best supports.”

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said nursing homes should start receiving cash from the State soon.

“On nursing homes more generally, the funding package is live and there have been applications made to it, although so far they have been small.  Money will be issued soon, if it has not been already.  PPE deliveries are regular.

“As I said, testing is underway. I would have preferred that it would have been sooner, but it was not possible because of the backlog and the prioritisation advice. 

“On staffing, there has been an agreement with the unions to allow HSE staff to work in the nursing homes. It is voluntary and we are asking people to volunteer to take up posts in nursing homes.  In some cases, local hospitals have taken over governance. “

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