Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel 'an appropriate step', says chief executive

File photo of Nursing Homes Ireland Chief Executive, Tadhg Daly.

Nursing Homes Ireland has said the setting up of an expert panel on Covid-19 nursing home care is an appropriate step.

The panel will look at how well the measures brought in to protect residents in nursing homes have worked.

It comes as the latest figures show there have been 13 more Covid-19 deaths in the Republic and 76 new cases.

Minister for Health Simon Harris announced the establishment of a Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel yesterday.

The decision comes following a recent National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommendation.

The panel will examine national and international measures in response to Covid-19, as well as emerging best practice to ensure all Covid-19 response measures are prepared for.

The Department of Health said this was in light of the expected ongoing Covid-19 risk and impact to nursing homes over the next six to 18 months.

The panel will report to the minister by the end of June 2020.

Nursing Homes Ireland Chief Executive, Tadhg Daly, is concerned over the high level of deaths in residential care settings:

Mr Daly said: "Well the 867, as I understand it, are in all care facilities - disability services, mental health services and indeed nursing homes - clearly that is very concerning.

"The nursing home sector is at the very front line. As a society, we were preparing for a surge at the acute hospitals, that didn't happen, and it happened ultimately in nursing homes sector."

There has been widespread concern over the number of deaths associated with residential care facilities, with more than 60% of all Covid-19 deaths in Ireland related to care homes.

Mr Harris said: “Throughout the response to the pandemic there has been particular focus on the challenges in the nursing home sector and it has been and remains an absolute priority for me in the overall response to Covid-19.

“We must continue to plan appropriately to meet the ongoing challenges of Covid-19 into the foreseeable future.

“I believe that the establishment of a Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel to examine and advise on these matters is a crucial aspect of good planning to support Ireland’s navigation through the Covid-19 landscape and ensure the best possible safeguards are in place to protect the many people who call nursing homes their home.”

The expert panel will be chaired by Professor Cecily Kelleher, principal of the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences, UCD. Professor Kelleher will be joined by Professor Cillian Twomey (a retired geriatrician), Petrina Donnelly, group director of nursing, RCSI Hospital Group, and Bridget Doherty, representing the public interest.

Mr Harris added: “I want to sincerely thank the experts for their willingness to undertake this important task and I look forward to working closely with them in the weeks ahead.”

It is expected that the expert panel will commence its scoping work early next week.