Tuesday, 13 October 2020
Department of Health
436. To ask the Minister for Health the HSE policy for remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular for hospital employees whose work can be done from home; if a forum is available for workers to contact should they feel they are being put under pressure to return to the workplace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29638/20]
The 'Guidance and FAQs for Public Health Service Employers and Employees' document, prepared for the public service by DPER sets out in Section 1.1 who should attend their employers premises. It states that each employer will determine the roles that it considers essential to attend the workplace. The service needs of each employer will be the deciding factor in the decision making process.
A copy of this document is available to view at this website:
I have referred this operational matter to the HSE, for a direct reply to the Deputy.
437. To ask the Minister for Health his views on the fact that members of the Covid-19 Expert Panel on Nursing Homes may have worked in institutions that have been involved in cases of mismanagement of incidences of Covid-19 outbreaks; if this will impact its work in advising his Department about the way in which nursing homes are managed through the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29642/20]
Both myself and Minister Donnelly have received and responded to correspondence on this matter.
NPHET recommended the establishment of an Expert Panel on Nursing Homes on 14th May 2020, to examine the complex issues surrounding the management of COVID-19 among this particularly vulnerable cohort. Later that month, the Nursing Homes Expert Panel was appointed by the Minister for Health
All of the available evidence and practical experience shows that older persons are particularly impacted by the virus and nationally and internationally the challenges facing nursing homes has been specifically highlighted. Even in a context where a nursing home remains COVID free, the impacts of necessary safeguards introduced through public health measures, such as cocooning, may have clinical and other impacts. The clinical management of COVID-19 and other matters such as potentially increased frailty and deconditioning in older persons will be important considerations as we learn to live with the virus for an extended period of time.
From both a clinical and a general operational perspective, the day-to-day running and management of a nursing home in a landscape with COVID-19 has required significant adjustment both in terms of preparation and mitigation against the virus, and in circumstances where the virus has appeared. These operational considerations will remain part of the landscape for the time being. Given these issues, it was critical that the package of expertise provided by the expert panel would capture all of the skills and experience required effectively deliver the terms of reference of the group, including: Public Health expertise; track record in research and evidence based review; relevant experience in geriatric medicine; clinical, operational and nursing experience regarding nursing home care. It was also important, in line with normal Departmental policy, that the perspective of the service user was embedded in the process
These were the primary considerations in establishing the Panel. The membership of the Expert Panel reflected the requisite skills and experience.