Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Covid-19 (Health): Statements


6:15 pm

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)

I thank Deputy Fitzpatrick for raising this important matter. In regard to Dealgan House Nursing Home, I very much welcome the fact HIQA is due to carry out an inspection in regard to Dealgan and I will be guided by the outcome of that, as I am sure the health service will be. HIQA is the regulator and has the ability to go into any nursing home and inspect it, and it is right and proper that it is going to do that.

I join with the Deputy in paying tribute to staff. An impression has been given, not by the Deputy but by some, that suggests every nursing home failed to prepare. My experience, from very detailed engagement with nursing home owners and staff, is that people have worked extremely hard. This is a very infectious virus. It is hard to keep it out of the Deputy's home and mine, and even harder to keep it out of a home where many people live together, in particular people who are vulnerable. That is not a reason we should not try to rise to the challenge. The world over, this has been a real challenge. Some countries have not tested in nursing homes and some do not record deaths in nursing homes. Painful as it is, we put everything out there for people to see, so we can learn and can do better, which is very important.

I am sure there are learnings and there must be learnings, but I do not accept that Ireland acted slowly in this regard. If one looks at the interval between Ireland having its first case and making the recommendation around visitor restrictions, in this country it was 14 days; in South Korea, it was 47; in Belgium; 36; in Sweden, 61; in Spain, 41; in France, 47; in Norway, 16; in Canada, 46; in Germany, 48; in Australia, 53; in the Netherlands, 22; and in New Zealand, 23. Therefore, we moved very quickly in terms of putting visitor restrictions in place and also providing personal protective equipment to what are for-profit, private businesses, and it was right and proper that we did that. There was also a funding scheme, HIQA protocols, testing of asymptomatic residents, testing of staff and a plan was put in place in that regard.

There is absolutely a need to make sure we look around the world and check if there are more things we can do. That is why I have announced today, on the basis of a NPHET recommendation, that we will set up an expert review panel, with a geriatrician, a public health expert, a senior nurse and a public interest representative. The panel will look at what we have done in Ireland, what has gone well, what we can do more of, what we need to do more of, what other countries have done and what learnings there are. The panel is to report back by the end of June. I will be happy to share that with the Deputy then.


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