Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Health): Statements
Simon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
I thank the Deputy Butler. On the nursing homes, I have informed Nursing Homes Ireland of this expert panel and we will certainly have an opportunity for it to input. There will be many stakeholders from which the expert panel will need to hear. I do not intend to have people from representative bodies on it but it is important that there is a way for those bodies to have an input.
When we look at other countries the world over, we put a lot of measures in place in Ireland for nursing homes that other countries did not but, equally, we know we have seen a very difficult situation in nursing homes.
I want to know if there are more things we can do here based on best international experience. I want to bring those experts together. We are not just going to have to deal with Covid for a couple of days or a couple more weeks now. We may well have to go through a winter period and maybe beyond that. What do we need to do and learn in that regard? It is about doing a comprehensive but quick piece of work that is back to us by the end of June so that we can plan.
On screening services, I absolutely get the importance of this. The HSE is currently developing capacity planning for the ongoing delivery of Covid-19 and non-Covid care services side by side. They will obviously examine the issue of screening as part of their non-Covid care plan. I want to be in a position to recommence our population screening programmes as soon as possible. It has to be safe for patients and staff. None of us disagrees on that. As we all appreciate, screening can involve tests and examinations which present particular challenges for the staff running the programmes in terms of physical distancing issues. There are a lot of challenges there but there will be a lot of challenges in many sectors. We need to plan and know how we are going to recommence it. I make the point, though, that I think Dr. Henry was making in respect of symptomatic patients. Nobody needs to wait for screening. If you are symptomatic today, go forward. That is not in any way to demean the value of our screening programmes but I urge those who are symptomatic today to contact their GP. I expect with the framework document the HSE will publish within two weeks that it will outline its plans in respect of screening.