Health officials accused of acting 'too late' at Covid-hit nursing home 

ireland
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Neil Michael

There have been claims that health officials acted “too little and too late” to save the lives of people who died from Covid-19 at a Kerry nursing home.

Relatives want to know why Hiqa and the HSE didn’t move sooner against the Oaklands Nursing Home in Derry, Listowel.

The outbreak has so far led to at least six deaths among residents at the home, which has a long history of regulatory non-compliance.

It had also been the subject of repeated investigations in the months before its registration certificate was finally cancelled last week.

“Action was taken too little and too late,” Gerry Kennedy told the Irish Examiner. His 77-year-old brother Sean died of Covid-19 on Friday, November 13, at the home.

I cannot understand why action was not taken sooner. There needs to be an investigation into the role Hiqa played here.

“If the Food Safety Authority found a restaurant was not compliant with various food regulations, it would go in and close it down immediately.”

He said the first he knew there were compliance issues at the home was when he found out from media reports the HSE has taken the home over just days after his brother died.

“To hear that the HSE had gone in and to hear about the reasons why was devastating for all the family,” said Gerry, who first spoke about his brother’s case on RTE Radio 1’s Liveline last week. “The people who worked there did the best they could. Any time I was there or any time his wife was there the place was clean, bright, and airy, and people were being looked after.

“Nobody from the HSE, or HIQA bothered to let his wife of 54 years or any of his five children know before that story broke that this was what was going on behind the scenes. And this added to their great distress.”

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Local Sinn Fin TD Pa Daly said he believed current regulations covering nursing homes were “not fit for purpose”.

He said:

They are too slow, and what happened should not have happened. Oaklands Nursing Home will need to be a part of any investigation into what has happened in our nursing homes.”

The HSE provided “high-level support” to Oaklands nursing home from about the first week in November following what was described as “a significant outbreak of Covid-19”.

The agency’s role was to “provide clinical governance” for a period.

Early last week, it handed clinical governance for the nursing home back to its owners but Hiqa moved against them and an order was made by Kerry District Court cancelling its registration on November 19.

The HSE, which can only enter a private nursing home if invited or if ordered to by a court, was directed to take charge of the nursing home from that date “in the interests of the health, safety and quality of life of the residents”.

It has been acting as the “caretaker registered provider” for Oaklands nursing home since last Thursday. It said “any issue related to the registration of a centre is a matter between the individual provider and Hiqa”.

Hiqa last night declined to comment on remarks made by relatives of residents. However, although the watchdog is likely to have started its move against the home earlier this year, it can take months to get to a position where a court order could be sought. There were a total of six inspections carried out at the home by Hiqa this year.

Calls and texts to the private operators of the home went unanswered.

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