Covid-19: Simon Harris announces new nursing home supports

Health Minister Simon Harris said:"The nursing home sector cares for one of the most precious, and vulnerable groups in our society." File picture.
By Ciarán Sunderland

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has introduced a number of new measures for nursing homes in Ireland amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Twice-daily staff screening measures will begin in nursing homes while COVID-19 testing will be prioritised for nursing home staff.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is to provide access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and further training.

Movement between residential facilities by staff is to be minimised and the HSE have said they will support staff with alternative accommodation and transport, if necessary.

A temporary COVID-19 Financial Support Scheme was also announced by the Government.

In a statement, the Department of Health said this scheme will "support the critical services provided by nursing homes."

The scheme is to provide a temporary assistance payment to support private and voluntary nursing homes in managing any outbreak that occurs.

Lasting three months, it will be reviewed after the first month’s operation.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “The nursing home sector cares for one of the most precious, and vulnerable groups in our society.

"We must do everything we can to support them to help break the transmission of the virus.

“To this end, we are extending supports to this sector so that they can continue their role in the overall public health response to COVID-19.

Our goal, in these challenging times, is to protect our older people, wherever they are living.

Yesterday, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said the National Public Health Emergency Team was concerned with the growing number of cases in nursing homes.

He said: “We are concerned with the number of clusters identified in nursing homes. We have identified a range of measures, working with the HSE.

"We need to see continuous actions being taken to reduce the risk of transmission in nursing home and long-term residential facilities.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said the efforts to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus will continue.

He said: “We are now facing into the end of week one of new measures. It has been a tough adjustment but these efforts save lives.

    The latest restrictions in operation since Friday, March 27 mandate that everyone should stay at home, only leaving to:
  • Shop for essential food and household goods;
  • Attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products;
  • Care for children, older people or other vulnerable people - this excludes social family visits;
  • Exercise outdoors - within 2kms of your home and only with members of your own household, keeping 2 metres distance between you and other people
  • Travel to work if you provide an essential service - be sure to practice social distancing

"These efforts result in lives saved.

“Anyone over 70 years of age should remain cocooned as per public health advice, and for essential food and prescription shopping, call on family, friends or services to help you. Over 70’s should not be leaving home.”

Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry, said: “There is now a clear picture of more severe illness in older people.

"This underlines the importance of our advice on cocooning and requires all of us to support any vulnerable people who find themselves in isolation.”

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024