Lengthy wait for nursing home Covid-19 tests

By Evelyn Ring
Irish Examiner Reporter

As nursing homes strive to contain the spread of coronavirus it emerged that more than four out of ten are waiting over 10 days for test results.

Nursing Homes Ireland, which conducted the survey, said it exposed inconsistencies right across the country.

The survey revealed that two residents are waiting 20 days for a test result and another died while awaiting testing.

Staff at one nursing home are still waiting over two weeks for test results.

One in five nursing homes ranked their engagement with the HSE on the provision of personal protective equipment as “poor” or “very poor” and one in four found the PPE supplied was not fit for purpose.

One nursing home said it had been requesting PPE for over two weeks and had been assured it would be prioritised five times.

“Promised delivery yesterday as it had been dispatched. Still waiting,” another commented.

Most (88%) of nursing homes got their PPE from a private supplier and one in 10 had to use “homemade” equipment.

    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

Others complained of having inadequate and inappropriate quantities of PPE and not having orders filled. They said staff had become very stressed because of a lack of PPE.

“We had a suspected case. Our own PPE now used up. Making our own arrangements to source same,” said one nursing home.

“I was told if we have a case PPE will be provided. We had three suspected cases at the time. Since then one has returned as negative. If any of the others come back as positive it will be too late,” another commented.

Asked about staffing, 35% said they were aware that the HSE was recruiting staff members.

NHI chief executive, Tadhg Daly, said the survey that was quickly pulled together reflected members’ frustrations.

The National Public Health Emergency Team recommended a range of enhanced measures to assist residents and staff in nursing homes but Mr Daly said they had yet to see the “fruits” of that.

“There are challenges; we accept that but the reality on the ground is mirrored in the survey,” he said.