Tuesday, 27 July 2021
Department of Health
1784. To ask the Minister for Health the estimated cost of fully implementing the recommendations of the Nursing Home Expert Panel report by one-off costs and recurring costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35492/21]
The Nursing Homes Expert Panel was established, on foot of a NPHET recommendation, to examine the complex issues surrounding the management of COVID-19 among this particularly vulnerable cohort. The Expert Panel report, which was published in August 2020, has added further to our knowledge and learning. This report clearly outlines the key protective measures that we must ensure are in place across our nursing homes. These actions are based on learning from our own and the international experience of COVID-19 to date. The report also recommends additional analysis and examination of the relevant public health and other data sets in order that further causal and protective factors for COVID-19 clusters are identified. Work to progress the recommendations of the Expert Panel report, particularly those recommendations requiring a priority focus in the response to COVID-19, is ongoing across health agencies and stakeholders. The recommendations of the report are varied and complex, are both short-, medium- and longer-term in nature, and require a mix of ongoing operational response to COVID-19 and a longer-term strategic reform. Those strategic reforms are, by their nature, complex and relate to whole of system issues.
It is important to note that any such reforms require careful consideration and substantial policy development work. In the case of some recommendations, major legislative reform is required, something that must be approached in a measured and considerate way, to ensure reforms are delivered as intended. Costing of the implementation of recommendations is ongoing, along with the implementation of the recommendations. As noted, longer-term consideration is necessary in costing many of the recommendations, due to the major developmental work that is required in order to accurately cost the defined policy objective and the full range of actions needed to deliver same.
In line with the Government commitment to progress the recommendations of the Expert Panel, up to €40m is available to support the progress of the national recommendations. Up to €5 million in funding has been allocated to HIQA for 2021 for the implementation of the Panel’s recommendations, with €3.8 million approved for draw down for the recruitment of substantial additional staff required to progress recommendations, including additional inspectors required to increase the frequency of inspections. Given the significant service and policy reforms recommended, many recommendations are currently in the developmental stage, including considerations of the role of the Community Support Teams, Integrated Infection Prevention and Control Strategy and a range of legislative reform analysis. It is anticipated that proposals will be considered by the implementation structures in due course and separately, business cases will be submitted to the Department for review.
It is also important to note that significant supports have been provided to nursing homes throughout the pandemic and these supports have been recognised by the Expert Panel in its recommendations. They include:
- Enhanced HSE engagement
- Multidisciplinary clinical supports at CHO level through 23 COVID-19 Response Teams
- Supply of precautionary and enhanced PPE, free of charge.
- Serial testing programme for all staff of nursing homes.
- Where possible, access to staff from community and acute hospitals.
- Suite of focused public health guidance and training resources.
- HIQA COVID-19 quality assurance regulatory framework.
- Temporary accommodation to nursing home staff to support measures to block the chain of transmission.
The inter-agency Implementation Oversight Team, which was established by the Minister for Health, oversees the implementation of the relevant COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel recommendations, and reports regularly to the Minister for Health and the Minister for Mental Health and Older People. Many of the short- and medium-term recommendations have been commenced or delivered on to date, with work continuing to progress other recommendations. Two progress reports have been published to date, with the third report due to be completed in the coming months. These reports are available on the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report: Implementation Oversight Team webpage at www.gov.ie/en/publication/c7f5b-covid-19-nursing-homes-expert-panel-report-implementation-oversight-team/.