Covid-19 failings in nursing homes, direct provision and meat plants spotlighted in report

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Digital Desk staff

Outbreaks of Covid-19 in nursing homes, direct provision centres and meat plants has been spotlighted in the final report of the Oireachtas special committee on Covid-19 response published today.

The report into the State's handling of the pandemic has recommended that a public inquiry into coronavirus related deaths in nursing homes be carried out.

The recommendation was made as the report found that the State failed to recognise the level of risk posed to nursing home residents, with more than half of deaths linked to the disease occurring in residential care facilities.

We need a stronger regulatory framework to protect our older population, people in direct provision and low paid workers like those in meat plants, many of whom do not have access to sick pay.

The State’s test and trace system has also been highlighted in the report as an area requiring improvement.

Outgoing Chairman of the Covid-19 response committee, TD Michael McNamara, said the report looks make and makes recommendations on where the committee felt “we could and should have done better”.

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“We need a stronger regulatory framework to protect our older population, people in direct provision and low paid workers like those in meat plants, many of whom do not have access to sick pay,” he said.

“We also need to be able to respond more rapidly to outbreaks through a quick testing and tracing regime.

“Finally, we need address long term systemic issue such as great levels of public health support which will allow as many as possible of our elderly to be cared for in their communities and away from long term institutional. The State has a huge job to do to achieve this but that is the challenge we now face.”

Repercussions

The report follows the Covid-19 response committee taking evidence in close to 30 hearings and also receiving written submissions following a public consultative process.

Mr McNamara said an inquiry into nursing home deaths could have serious repercussions.

“Some of the findings that an inquiry might make could have, and I’m not saying would have, but could have very serious repercussions for institutions and for individuals,” he said. “If those findings are to be made, they need to be made based on fair procedures.”

As the committee also heard there have been 14 outbreaks of the virus in direct provision centres with 175 cases, committee member and Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said testing and tracing need to be ramped up to prevent further outbreaks.

“Obviously what we want and we wanted to see what every effort was made through testing and through tracing to ensure that those outbreaks and clusters were brought under control. Far too many happened,” he said.

“What we have to do now is make sure they don’t happen again. But all of this I think again brought into sharp focus the very unfair nature of direct provision and the need to replace it with a much more human rights based system and a fairer system.”

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