Covid-19 ‘testing roadmap’ needed for nursing homes

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has called for a Covid-19 testing roadmap to clarify the testing regime that will be required to protect staff and residents in nursing homes over the next 18 months.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published new guidance this week on long-term residential facilities which recommended that residents are screened daily for symptoms of Covid-19 and that they be periodically tested.

The ECDC guidance also recommended that staff be tested at regular intervals, either weekly or bi-weekly, and that regular visitors to nursing homes should also be considered for testing.

NHI Chief executive Tadgh Daly said the nursing home sector needs a “roadmap for testing” in the longer term given that Covid-19 is expected to pose challenges for the next six to 18 months.

“New guidance was issued by the ECDC this week for longterm residential facilities and that suggests weekly testing for staff and that is something we would advocate,” Mr Daly said.

“We need a practical plan or roadmap for testing so that we know who will get tested, how often they will get tested and who will carry out the testing,” he added.

It may be too early, he said, to lift visitor restrictions at nursing homes but a conversation needs to start on the issue. 

“We don’t see it changing in the immediate future but we need to plan for it and start that conversation," he said.

Meanwhile the National Public Health Emergency Team has set up an expert advisory group, which will make recommendations to the Health Minister on the long-term management of Covid-19 in nursing homes, by the end of June.