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HSE incompetence put nursing home residents in the firing line

Look, that’s a tough headline. But it’s also objectively true. Do you remember this story we wrote here on Gript a few weeks ago? You probably don’t, so here’s a refresher:


That was on March 10th. On that day, RTE’s Fergal Bowers reported the following:

In other words, exactly three weeks ago, the Irish Health authorities were writing to nursing homes and hospitals demanding that bans on visitors to those facilities be lifted.

At the time, we called it madness.

The incubation period for Coronavirus, incidentally, is up to two weeks.

So where are we three weeks later?

Here’s Bowers again, yesterday:

And here’s the data, courtesy of Virgin Media’s Richard Chambers:

Almost half of all the clusters in the country are in residential care homes.

86% of all the deaths in the country are in people over the age of 65. Almost half of those in hospital are over 65.

Two days ago, the Government announced plans to “cocoon” older people – but for many of these people, to be frank, it’s too late.

When it comes to criticising the Government, it’s important not to have a go at them for things that were not foreseeable. For example, expecting the state to have vast stockpiles of protective equipment in storage all the time just in case there is a deadly epidemic seems unreasonable – most such equipment comes with warranties and use-by dates, so you’d be expecting the state to have huge stockpiles of the stuff at all times. Some shortages are to be expected, and can be forgiven.

But in this instance, it was obvious to anybody with a brain a few weeks ago that nursing homes should be protected.

It was so obvious, in fact, that many nursing homes acted of their own accord, and banned visitors to protect their patients.

And what did the HSE do? It ordered them to lift the bans.

To be fair, some nursing homes may not have complied – the smart ones, at least.

But it’s very likely that some did comply – that they thought “oh, we’re over-reacting, and the official advice is to let people in as normal”.

In those instances, it is very likely that HSE incompetence – and that’s the only word for it – has cost people their health, and their lives.

Shameful stuff, and for all that many people in the HSE are doing a fine job in impossible circumstances, this particular act of stupidity should not be forgotten, or forgiven, when the crisis passes.

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