Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Covid-19 (Health): Statements


4:20 pm

Ruairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)

I wish to raise two issues with the Minister. First, the sadness and devastation of suicide has touched our community in Dundalk this week, with the death of a young man I knew. I express my sincere sympathies to his family and friends. Unfortunately, it is a situation that has been endured by families in Louth and throughout the country for many years. The message needs to be that suicide leaves nothing but pain and unanswerable questions. Often, it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The pressure people are feeling is being exacerbated by this pandemic. I want to let people know there is help out there for them. To families who are worried about a loved one, they should engage with the person concerned, ask how he or she is feeling, ask if he or she feels like ending his or her life and contact the appropriate services immediately. Sometimes, the last people one wants to talk to when one is going through a bad time are those one loves the most. However, there are services available and there are people who care, such as Pieta House, which was mentioned earlier, SOSAD Ireland in Louth and the Samaritans. These organisations step into the breach, like many other NGOs, when State services are lacking. We need to make sure people make contact and tell how they feel or that people tell these organisations they are worried about a loved one. They will help.

I echo the calls that have been made by Deputy Ward for a special sitting of the Dáil to focus on mental health and for the reconvening of the Committee on Future of Mental Health Care. The WHO has said that Covid-19 could cause a global mental health crisis so I want to ask the Minister if there are immediate plans for a strategy to deal with the short term as people head into the tenth week of lockdown.

The second issue I want to raise is Dealgan House nursing home in Dundalk. I acknowledge the correspondence Louth Deputies have received from the Minister's Department following my questions here two weeks ago and I acknowledge the correspondence from his office in recent days but core issues remain. I acknowledge the news that the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, will carry out an inspection at Dealgan House in the near future and is talking to families there. Can the Minister clarify if this inspection report will be used as the basis for deciding if and when the RCSI Hospital Group will hand operational control back to the owners of the nursing home? That is the immediate concern. We still do not have knowledge of how and under what circumstances the RCSI Hospital Group will step back from Dealgan House. I would like the Minister to directly address this. This needs to be decided upon and communicated to families who still have loved ones in Dealgan House. They need to know whose call it is for the RCSI Hospital Group to end its involvement.

There are constant concerns about a second wave of the virus coming as we unlock and families with loved ones in Dealgan House, as well as in every other nursing home in the State, need reassurance that any and all measures are in place to ensure people in residential settings will be protected into the future. We need to know there is a foolproof contact infrastructure in place for all staff or for anybody with worries. The families demand an inquiry into what happened at Dealgan House. Can the Minister state today whether a preliminary process can be put in place to gather testimony from families and staff and whether an inquiry be established? Families feel strongly about this. We need to ensure it happens and that we do not have other scenarios like Dealgan House in the future.


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