The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has confirmed that almost one-third of nursing homes in Ireland have the Cornavirus, with clusters of Covid-19 now in 155 of the residential care facilities. 

Professor Jack Lambert, who specialises in infectious diseases at the Mater hospital, has warned that the spread of the virus in nursing homes is “a catastrophe in the making”. He told RTE’s Today with Seán O’Rourke that additional staff needed to be sent to “every single nursing home in Ireland”.

Government decisions, including lifting a ban on visits to nursing homes and failing to make care homes a priority for PPE, are now being seen as serious errors in the fight against the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Tipperary TD, Mattie McGrath, has said that the situation in care homes means that “families of nursing home residents are living in genuine fear for their loved ones”

Deputy McGrath said that people were increasingly alarmed about the capacity of the health service to respond to the growing number of clusters in both public, private and voluntary nursing homes throughout the state:

“Families of nursing home residents are living in genuine fear that their loved ones will not be taken to hospital in the event of them contracting Covid-19,” he said. “It is becoming increasingly evident that both the initial response to the outbreak of Covid-19 among older persons in residential settings and the most recent efforts to break the chain of transmission have been characterised more by failure than success.”

“I accept that mistakes were inevitable to some degree-but what we are witnessing now is a situation that is on the verge of getting completely beyond our control. The impact of the messaging that came from senior public health officials in March, which was in direct contradiction to the advice outlined by Nursing Homes Ireland, is now being felt.”

The Independent TD said “we need absolute assurances that older patients, including those with intellectual disabilities will receive the same kind of care and attention as other members of the population.”

He said the lack of assurances was “creating unimaginable levels of anxiety for family members, staff, and owners who genuinely feel that the delayed prioritisation of older people is going to have a devastating impact.”

“The Minister and his senior public health officials must accept that the response to date has fallen short of the kind of preventative care and protection that our elderly deserve,” concluded Deputy McGrath.