Health Minister forms panel to examine Covid-19 'challenges' in nursing homes

The Health Minister Simon Harris has announced the establishment of a Covid-19 nursing home expert panel.

It will look at the measures currently in place here to protect residents and review the international response to coronavirus in those settings.

Up to 867 people living in nursing homes in the Republic have died from Covid-19 so far.

The expert panel will start its work next week and prepare a report for the Minister by the end of June.

Minister Harris said "Throughout the response to the pandemic there has been a 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 panel will be chaired by Professor Cecily Kelleher, Principal of the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences at UCD.

She will be joined by retired geriatrician Professor Cillian Twomey, who worked at Cork University and St. Finbarr’s Hospitals in Cork for 31 years and Petrina Donnelly (Group Director of Nursing, RCSI Hospital Group).

The panel will be completed by Bridget Doherty, a qualified general nurse and midwife who has worked in healthcare in Ireland and the UK for over 45 years. Ms Doherty was a Patient Advocate from 2010 until her retirement, providing direct advocacy support and guidance to individuals who believed they have had an adverse outcome as a result of an experience within the Irish healthcare system.