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Donegal flu death nursing home had insufficient measures in place – report

A NURSING home at the centre of a deadly influenza outbreak had insufficient measures in place to detect the illness early, health chiefs have said.

A new report following an investigation into Nazareth House private care home in Co Donegal, where seven elderly residents died in the space of just two weeks, found there was no procedure to identify the onset of flu.

It identified a lack of co-ordination of information available to staff on patients with respiratory illnesses, and also pointed out poor standards in hygiene at the centre at Fahan, near Buncrana.

"There appeared to be no established procedure to enable early detection of influenza in the nursing home," the report found.

"There was a lack of co-ordination of information available about residents with respiratory illness being cared for in the designated centre and residents who were admitted with respiratory problems to the general hospital."

The Health Information and Quality Authority pointed out that while healthcare arrangements for residents were good in general, some areas of the home were unclean.

"There were some deficits in the standard of cleanliness and hygiene and the maintenance arrangement for equipment," the report went on.

"A number of shower chairs and commodes were not in a satisfactorily clean condition and were rusty."

Seven elderly residents died between March 22 and April 8 after contracting an everyday strain of flu known as A (H3).

A further two patients died at the private home, but their deaths were not related. The average age of the residents was 89.

The inspectorate made a string of recommendations at the end of its three-day investigation on April 4, including calls to improve infection control procedures and hygiene standards at the centre.

Nazareth House spokeswoman Sister Alice Kirwan insisted staff at the centre would work quickly to address the issues highlighted in the report.

"The management and staff of Nazareth House, Fahan, wish to thank the inspection team for their support and are committed to addressing the recommendations in the report," she said.

In a statement, the Sisters of Nazareth said a number of protocols have been put in place to ensure the home receives information from other medical bodies when dealing with outbreaks.

"Infection control and emergency policies have been revised in light of the incident which include arrangements to address any future outbreaks of infectious illnesses and the management of communication during a critical event," the spokesman said.

He pointed out that as post-mortem examinations have not been carried out on those who died, influenza as a sole cause of death could not be confirmed.

"Out of the nine residents that died during this period, seven of these deaths occurred 'possibly' as a consequence of an influenza-related illness, with four passing away in Letterkenny General Hospital," he said.

"It must be recognised that not all of the deaths occurred at Nazareth House in Fahan, nor that all those who died did so of an influenza-related illness."