Call made for public inquiry to pinpoint cause
A PUBLIC inquiry is needed to establish why Clare has the third highest Covid-19 death rate in the country, according to a local Dáil Deputy.
A Clare Champion analysis of Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures for Covid-19 related deaths has revealed the death rate from the virus when compared with confirmed cases is the third highest in the country.
The CSO figures show there were 4,868 cases and 115 deaths in the Banner county, giving a death rate of 2.36% from the start of the pandemic until April 30 last.
This places Clare in the top three as only Mayo on 2.8% and Wicklow on 2.76% had a higher death rate.
Waterford had the second highest death rate in Munster on 1.94% after recording 109 deaths from 5,597 cases.
While Limerick had 2.3 times more confirmed cases than Clare with a total of 11,361, it had 215 deaths, giving a death rate of 1.89%.
Cork’s rate was also lower at 1.85% after it recorded 446 deaths out of 22,441 cases. The death rate in Tipperary is almost half the Clare rate on 1.6% following 95 deaths out of 5,884 cases.
Kerry also recorded a low death rate of 1.19% with just 54 deaths out of 4,524 cases.
Sinn Féin Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne said the differences in the county death rates needs to be examined alongside a proposed public inquiry into the nursing home neglect and Covid-19 related deaths during the pandemic.
Deputy Wynne admitted it is stark to learn the Banner County has the third highest Covid-19 related deaths in the country.
According to John Hopkins University, which has been collecting extensive data since the start of the pandemic, the average case fatality rate for Ireland is 1.8%. USA is the same.
In England, the Age Standardised Mortality Rates (ASMR) for deaths due to Covid-19 decreased to 7.1 deaths per 100,000 people in May 2021 compared with 20.6 in April 2021.
In Wales, the ASMR for deaths due to Covid-19 decreased to 5.2 deaths per 100,000 people in May 2021 compared with 12.6 in April 2021.
The apparent variance in Irish and UK statistics for Covid-19 related deaths has prompted Deputy Michael McNamara to call for a review of these figures.
On January 1 last, he recalled RTE reported that there were 2,200 Covid-19 related deaths in the country. However, statistics released by the CSO indicated excess mortality in Ireland was 600 in 2020 compared with the previous year.
During a briefing for public representatives earlier this year, Deputy McNamara recalled he asked how many people in the Mid-West had died from or as a result of the virus compared to those who had underlying or other serious contributory factors, and is still waiting for the answer.
Deputy McNamara stressed he is not suggesting in any way that Covid-19 isn’t real or doesn’t exist, and that people don’t die from it.
However, the East Deputy pointed out the United Kingdom statistics on Covid-19 related deaths is 0.14%.
“The Irish figures seem to be at complete variance with this. Maybe, there is a difference because a lot of people who had Covid-19 weren’t recorded or detected with the virus at the start of this year.
Outlining his reluctance to make any definitive comment on the Irish Covid-19 death rate, he explained this would suggest the virus is a more serious disease than it is, and may frighten an already frightened population.
“I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t be aware of the virus and modify their behaviour, but it is not a killer on the scale those figures would suggest.
“I think there is a huge problem with the use of statistics to create hysteria. Covid-19 is not the only problem facing Irish society and it is not the only medical condition that people can contract.
“There are far more medical conditions you can contract, which you are far more likely to die from than Covid-19 in Ireland.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne has called for a full public inquiry into the scandal of nursing home neglect and deaths during the pandemic.
Sinn Féin tabled a Dáil motion calling for this inquiry on Tuesday, and a vote was scheduled on Wednesday night after the Clare Champion went to press.
In a statement issued to The Champion before the vote, Deputy Wynne said this is a crucial issue, which has devastated many families here in Clare and across the state, and she urged all Dáil deputies to support this proposal.
“I want to commend the many nursing home staff who worked so hard under considerable pressure and stress during the pandemic to do their best to look after those in their care.
“However, it is clear the sector was unable to cope effectively due to chronic understaffing, weak governance arrangements, poor safeguarding provision, and a lack of investment.
“Many nursing homes were unprepared for any infectious disease outbreak, and the consequences were devastating for the families which have lost more than 2,000 relatives in these institutions alone.
“As social workers and families said at the time – this is an environment ripe for abuse and neglect. Staff and families fear not enough is being done to change this and ensure that residents can get the care they deserve.
“Sinn Féin’s motion backs families’ calls for an inquiry to establish what went wrong and ensure changes are made to ensure such a devastating situation does not happen again. It also identifies key areas where change is needed to protect nursing home residents in the future.”
She called for the establishment of an independent safeguarding authority within an appropriate state agency, and the prioritisation of adult safeguarding legislation.
“Mandatory reporting of suspected neglect or abuse must be the norm across the sector and should support and protect workers who come forward.
“Accountability at an organisational level, with appropriate penalties including criminal offences, must be put in place where a failure to govern safely results in harm or death for residents. Along with a public inquiry, this is the only way to deliver truth and justice for relatives and friends of those who have died or been neglected by care homes during the pandemic.
by Dan Danaher