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Covid outbreaks in a quarter of Clare nursing homes

OUTBREAKS of Covid-19 have been confirmed in a quarter of nursing homes in Clare, The Champion has learned. News of clusters in four out of the county’s 16 homes has prompted renewed calls for greater medical supervision of these facilities.

There were a total of 13 nursing home clusters in the Midwest area covering Limerick, Clare and North Tippeary, according to figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) up to May 24. Data released by the Health Service Executive (HSE) now indicate that Clare accounts for just under one-third of these.

Reacting to the figures, Deputy Michael McNamara, who is Chair of the Covid-19 Dáil Committee, has called on the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to provide it with details of the homes it identified, at the outset of the pandemic, as being at particular risk. At Tuesday’s committee hearing, Mary Dunnion of HIQA said a list had been sent to the HSE in February or March. “These, we would have determined, would be single, stand-alone providers and limited companies and also those that had regulatory non-compliance, not only with infection control but also with governance and management, risk management and staff training,” she said.

“I would call now for HIQA to send the list to our committee,” Deputy McNamara said. “I have not had sight of it and it would be helpful for members to be given a copy.”

Addressing the committee this week, Deputy McNamara said, “The sad fact that so many people have died in nursing homes is a tragedy for all of us. We must find not only accountability, but also the facts.” He questioned witnesses, including Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland and Phelim Quinn CEO of HIQA on the issue of appointing a clinical lead to every home in the country. “The figures for Clare would support the case that every nursing home should have a medical director,” he told The Champion.

The call also received the support of Dr Michael Harty, GP and former Independent TD. “Nursing homes should reach the highest standards of care,” he said. “I believe that in addition to a director of nursing, each home should have a designated medical director. This would provide far greater consistency of care and would support improvements in areas like infection control.”

Dr Harty also commented on the issue of discharges to nursing homes from acute hospitals, a significant point of controversy to the committee hearing yesterday. The Kilmihil GP said he was aware of homes in the county who had stopped taking patients over fears of infection.”

The HSE has reiterated that a ban on visitors remains in place at nursing homes nationwide. The figures released to The Champion do not indicate whether the Clare clusters are at private or public nursing homes, or whether any fatalities have resulted. There are 16 nursing homes in Clare, four of which are operated by the HSE. HPSC figures showed no new confirmed cases of coronavirus, in this county, between May 22 and May 26. The latest data showed a total of 322 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Clare.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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