Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Special Committee on Covid-19 Response

Examination of HIQA Report on the Impact of Covid-19 on Nursing Homes in Ireland

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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I welcome the HIQA delegation. I am substituting for Deputy Matt Shanahan who is unable to be here today. I have a number of specific questions. The most frequently used word in all of the discussion I heard while I was listening to the proceedings is "learning". We have been learning since this outbreak first occurred. A number of issues have arisen in respect of which I would like to pose a number of questions.

First, temporary agency staff are employed in the residential care sector, often travelling between residences and thus creating disease transmission risk. What is the status of employment in the sector and have full or part-time positions been created to reduce this sectoral need? Second, the Government is considering the use of rapid testing to facilitate increased travel. Does HIQA plan to offer such tests to the nursing home sector to identify potential caseload development and early warning of disease presentation? Third, a lack of isolation rooms or space was identified as an issue during the first wave of Covid. In the event of a second wave, is HIQA satisfied based on its desktop analysis that all care homes have made adequate provision for isolation where needed? Fourth, the movement of patients from hospitals to nursing homes without prior Covid testing was a significant infection point in the outbreak of the disease. Is HIQA satisfied that the correct hospital protocols are in place to ensure this situation cannot be repeated? Fifth, I know first hand from nursing homes in my own area, which are in the private nursing home sector and have done Trojan work, that when they sought PPE, all the orders had been secured and taken into the control of the HSE, which, for a number of weeks, left the private nursing homes without access to supplies. Is HIQA satisfied that arrangements are in place to ensure that whatever is available is available to everybody and not taken prisoner by the HSE? My final question relates to HIQA staffing levels. Is the authority satisfied that it has sufficient resources to deal with the ongoing Covid-19 crisis? It was mentioned that the authority has been given additional staff. At the end of the day, we need to ensure that the authority is working proactively and that it has the resources to do so. Can Mr. Quinn confirm that he is satisfied that the authority has sufficient resources or does it require further resources? That is an important point.

The report reflects on why people are in nursing homes and considers whether they could be facilitated at home if they had proper nursing care. I would welcome a comment on that issue. It appears to be the default position that people go into nursing homes because they cannot be cared for at home when it is much easier to care for people at home. I accept this is not an area of responsibility for the HIQA but I would welcome a comment on it.