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'Totally unacceptable' - son of woman (91) diagnosed with Covid in nursing home where majority of staff and residents tested positive for coronavirus

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Broadcaster Mac Dara Mac Donncha has branded it “terrible” that Nightingale Nursing Home were left without HSE support as 25 of the 27 residents tested positive.

One resident has died of the virus and two more have subsequently been hospitalised.

All but two of the staff in the home also tested positive which left the care home chronically understaffed.

Mac Dara’s 91-year-old mother is among those who have tested positive and he told Fachtna O’Drisceoil on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta that the home was left with little choice but to make the story public.

“It’s totally unacceptable. They knew back in March and April about the huge problems with nursing homes ... They had the whole summer to sort this out to be sure that this wouldn’t happen again. It’s not good enough.

“These are people who have given service to the state... My mother taught in schools in Cavan and Galway for thirty years, she’s given great service, she deserves better than this, as do all the residents in the home,” Mac Dara said.

Mac Dara said that he understood that the owners of the home had had no choice but to go public with their difficulties through Dr Martin Daly, as they weren’t getting the support they needed despite requesting it from the HSE.

“They let the HSE know about the problems and they told them to go to an agency, but the agency had nobody available, so they went back to the HSE but they got no satisfaction.”

“That’s why the doctor had to go public, and he had the full blessing of the owners of the home ... because they felt the HSE weren’t paying attention to them, it’s terrible that they had to go public... I suppose they felt they had no choice, at least something has been done about it now.”

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Mac Dara said that what had to be done now was “to provide relief for the staff there in the home, and to show respect to the twenty seven people there.... to say ‘we’re not going to leave you here in this mess without offering help’ ... to show dignity and respect for all the residents there, my mother included.”

Mac Dara told Fachtna that the home had been inundated with offers of help from people as far away as Kerry and Donegal who were prepared to come and work voluntarily there, in what he said was a wonderful display of community spirit.

There are twenty Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes with four facilities at the centre of “significant concern,” it emerged today.

HSE Director of Operations Ann O’ Donnell said 31 other long term care centres are getting “enhanced supports.”

She was speaking amid strong criticism of the HSE and its response to an outbreak in the Nightingale Nursing Home in Ballinasloe, where 26 of the 28 residents tested positive for the virus, with just a nurse and two care assistants to look after them.

Ms O’Donnell said that although cases are rising in nursing homes and residential centres, we “are nowhere near where we were” during the early months of the pandemic when it cost many lives.

She said a case of Covid-19 in the Galway nursing home was notified to the HSE on Sunday after a resident tested positive.

It was known to public health that one healthcare worker had also tested positive following serial testing.

An outbreak was declared on Sunday when there were two confirmed cases.

Ms O'Connor said testing was carried out on all residents and staff on Monday and an infection prevention and control nurse attended the home to provide support and education for the nursing home staff.

An outbreak control meeting took place on Tuesday and there have been ”daily meetings“ since.

A significant number of the staff, both nursing and healthcare workers, have tested positive, along with a large number of residents who have the virus,

Ms O Donnell claimed that “rosters are now covered and there is stable staffing in place for the next three days".

A dedicated manager providing daily support in terms of accessing staff is also available to the home, she claimed.

Asked about a distressed call to RTE’s Liveline from the home’s director of nursing she said was “assured” there was a nurse from Roscommon hospital there now.

“The night shift was a concern and there are also some care staff. I am just giving the version I received from our services.”

Nursing home staff said they were told by the HSE to get agency workers but there were none available.

Ms O'Donnell said more agency staff are now refusing to work in nursing homes.

Meanwhile there is now growing concern about a fall off in hospital attendances with fears that people suffering strokes and heart attacks are not seeking medical treatment.

This was seen during the early months of the pandemic and led to more deaths, illness and delayed diagnosis.

Dr Colm Henry of the HSE also said there has been a drop in the diagnosis of prostate cancer since last year and that is a concern because people may not be turning up to have symptoms checked.

Meanwhile, under-fire HSE CEO Paul Reid again apologised for the failures which led to 2,500 people who tested positive for the virus having to contact trace themselves because the HSE’s contact tracing service collapsed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

He said there has been a surge in demand and there were 76,000 contact tracing calls made arising from 300,000 Covid-19 positive tests conducted so far this month.

Calls are now taking longer and are more complex, he insisted.

The contract tracing centres now have 500 staff and 220 more are being hired. It is expected an additional 65 and 75 new contact tracers come on board weekly in the coming weeks.

Dr Henry said testing has been carried out 600 schools with 15,000 students and teachers swabbed. The positivity rate is 2.6pc.

There were 46 outbreaks in schools in the past week.


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