HEALTH Minister Simon Harris has defended the response to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes as it emerged there has been 23-deaths in one facility in the North-East, many of them related to Covid-19.
Dealgan House nursing home in county Louth confirmed that 23 deaths have taken place there since April 1, with many of these linked to the virus.
Concerns about the home - which has been taken over by a HSE hospital group - were raised in the Dáil yesterday where Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú said he had heard the deaths could have been as high as 26.
Mr Ó Murchú also said that staff at the home have been told that workers from the RCSI Hospital Group will no longer be present in Dealgan House by the weekend.
The nursing home offered a clarification on the situation this morning.
There were 84 residents at the home at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Dealgan House managing director Eoin Farrelly this morning said the nursing home "offers our sincere sympathies to the families and friends of those who have died due to Covid-19.
"Those 23 residents who tragically died since April 1 - many of which were Covid related - were people whom we got to know and love while caring for them, some over many years.
"All of us are heartbroken at their death and their family’s loss.”
He said that while not forgetting those who have passed away: "our emphasis now is on extinguishing the outbreak which we believe is under control with no new Covid 19 cases in our Nursing Home for more than 14 days."
Mr Farrelly added that there will also be a focus on "providing great care to our residents and trying to normalise life for them to the extent that Public Health measures allow.”
He said Dealgan House has "received substantial external support comprising both personnel and equipment, to bring the Covid 19 outbreak under control.
"The assistance we received was supportive and greatly appreciated and will wind down gradually as our own staff return to work.”
Mr Harris was asked about the home as he visited a new coronavirus assessment centre for marginalised communities at Dublin's Mater Hospital.
He said coronavirus is an "extremely infectious disease" and as in other countries there has been "particular challenges" in relation to long-term residential care facilities.
Mr Harris said he's encouraged by the large-scale testing programme that it testing residents and staff without any symptoms.
He said modelling suggests that there are now fewer new cases each day in nursing homes.
At one point in April there were around 100 new cases a day and that's dropped to about 50, he said.
He said he's been engaging with the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) and Nursing Homes Ireland.
Mr Harris said he doesn't want to do a disservice to nursing home staff and that many facilities are "handling the situation extremely well".
He said "an outbreak in and of itself is not a sign of failure in that nursing home" the same way an outbreak could happen in anyone's home.
He said nursing homes are getting " a huge amount of resources and priority". He said: "I do believe we’re beginning to make progress".