Thursday, 29 April 2021
Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements
I want to raise the issue of nursing homes. The four-visits-per-week rule comes into force next Tuesday. Under the restrictions in place for the last while, two visits per week were permitted. The organisation, Care Champions, says it is aware that at least 70 of the 580 nursing homes in this State, more than 10%, have not applied the two-visits-per-week rule. In many cases, this was not done for strictly public health reasons. The stated reason was staff shortages in the nursing home. I can only imagine how a husband who has not seen his wife who has been in a nursing home for some time or a wife who has not seen her husband who has been in a nursing home for some time would feel if told that they could not have their visits because of staff shortages in a nursing home. I would like the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, to comment on that situation, which I believe is not uncommon. It would be good to hear what she has to say on this matter.
During the third wave, almost 1,000 nursing home residents died as a result of Covid in the space of 100 days. In my area, namely, the Cork-Kerry area, 190 died, which was the highest of all of the regions in the State. There are some who are scratching their heads and asking how it can be that almost as many nursing home residents died in the recent third wave as died in the first and second waves, despite all the lessons that were there to be learned from both. This strengthens the case for a public inquiry into the events in our nursing homes over the past 15 months. I know the Minister of State will not have time to reply to this question, so it is an issue I will return to again. The Government cannot keep kicking the can down the road on this issue and saying it will answer the question mañana. The case for this is growing stronger by the day.