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Expert panel reveals extent of Covid nursing home clusters

NEW figures reveal that Clare had the highest rate in Munster of Covid-19 cases in nursing homes, during the first wave of the pandemic.

Data presented in the final report of the Nursing Homes Expert Panel show that this county had more than twice as many cases linked to care home clusters as Limerick. This is despite the fact that County Limerick had a far higher number of cases in the population as a whole (581) than Clare (371), in the period from March to June.

Reacting to the figures, the Clare-based Chair of the Dáil Committee on Covid-19 Response confirmed that it will consider calling for a public inquiry into the fate of nursing home residents between March and May. Deputy Michael McNamara confirmed that the committee has invited members of the Expert Panel to appear before it on September 16, alongside representatives of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). “I don’t want to prejudge these hearings,” Deputy McNamara told The Champion. “Some of the findings of the Expert Panel’s report mirror our own Interim Report, and there are some common concerns. One of those would be the fact that people are being sent into nursing homes where infection control measures are inadequate. This has clearly been an ongoing practice.”

Data taken by the Expert Panel from the Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting (CIDR) database show that Clare had 176 cluster-related cases in nursing homes, while Limerick had 78, during the same time-frame. There were 126 cases in Cork, 61 in Tipperary, 14 in Waterford and one in Kerry. Clare had just over 3% of the national total of cases. By comparison, Dublin, which was far more severely affected during the first wave, accounted for 48% of nursing home cluster cases.

The Expert Panel report also showed that a total of 43 healthcare workers in Clare nursing homes were confirmed to have Covid-19 between March and June. Most of the cases (36) were detected in the month of April. Séamus Ryan Chairperson of Clare Trades Council described the data as “deeply concerning”. “This is further proof that neither staff nor residents were protected adequately. We appear to be sleep-walking in this county generally, into ever greater numbers of cases. We can only hope that the government comes out with clearer and more decisive regulations to end the levels of confusion we are now experiencing. We need to have strengthened guidelines to protect workers and residents of nursing homes, in particular, and at the same time ensure they are not made prisoners in their own homes.”

The latest data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) shows that up to Friday, August 7, a total of 40 deaths in Clare were linked to confirmed infection with Covid-19. The media age of those who died was 81.

The latest data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) shows that there are currently 175 Covid-19 clusters in the Midwest. Eighteen of these are in nursing homes. The vast majority (97) are in private houses.

Inside the last fortnight, the University of Limerick Hospitals Group (ULHG) confirmed a number of cases at its facilities. Four are at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) and one has been confirmed in at patient at Ennis General Hospital. One staff member at UHL has been affected. In a statement, ULHG said that an Outbreak Control Team had been set up and rigorous testing and tracing initiated.

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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