Thursday, 15 July 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
In fairness, none of the questions I asked about accountability have been addressed by the Minister of State whatsoever. This is a serious problem. We need clarification with regard to who is behind these decisions. She mentioned that HSE support was provided to the nursing homes. That is not exactly true. Further freedom of information documents I have received show that on 19 October 2020, the Minister of State with responsibility for older persons and mental health, Deputy Mary Butler, wrote to the chief executive of the HSE, Mr. Paul Reid, seeking assurances that the HSE would continue to provide staffing support to homes. Paul Reid did not respond to the Minister of State for a month. When he did, he said that all was well and that the HSE would continue to provide funding for nursing home staffing and support for nursing homes. On 16 October 2020, a similar letter was sent to Mr. Phelim Quinn, the chief executive of HIQA. Paul Reid said he was disappointed that Mr. Quinn stated certain private nursing homes had not reported that they have received support from the HSE.
When Mr. Reid was telling HIQA and the Minister of State that all was well, I had people from nursing homes on the telephone to me crying for staff. I have in mind specifically a case in the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton's, county, Galway. It occurred almost at the same time that these letters were issued. All staff in a nursing home, bar two, tested positive and it was left without any support. This resulted in the two staff who had tested negative being unable to leave the nursing home because there were no replacement staff. That is an incredible situation. In case the Minister of State did not notice, the headlines in the newspapers at the time were screaming about staff shortages in nursing homes. All the while there were 75,000 people who had applied to Be On Call for Ireland but they were pretty much left untouched.
The Minister of State mentioned people being discharged under normal regulations. People were being discharged from these hospitals into nursing homes without being tested. It was an incredible situation. When will there be a full investigation? When will there be accountability? When can we be sure this will not happen again?