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Vaccine will bring an 'air of hope' to nursing home

As the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines are set to start in Sligo nursing homes, Ciara Galvin hears what it will mean for staff and residents

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Hopeful: Clinical Nurse Manager of Sonas Ard Na Greine Nursing Home in Enniscrone, Christine Cronin

Hopeful: Clinical Nurse Manager of Sonas Ard Na Greine Nursing Home in Enniscrone, Christine Cronin

Residents at Sonas Ard na Greine Nursing Home, Ennsicrone are set to receive vaccines later this month

Residents at Sonas Ard na Greine Nursing Home, Ennsicrone are set to receive vaccines later this month

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Hopeful: Clinical Nurse Manager of Sonas Ard Na Greine Nursing Home in Enniscrone, Christine Cronin

Clinical Nurse Manager of Sonas Ard Na Greine Nursing Home in Enniscrone, Christine Cronin, has said there is "hope in the air" for residents and staff thanks to the Covid-19 vaccination.

The 42 residents of the nursing home will be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus later this month, and Ms Cronin says there is a mixture of relief, and hope that there might be some return to normality soon.

Thanks to the incredible efforts of staff, both while at work and in their private lives, the nursing home has remained Covid-19 free throughout the pandemic.

"Staff have taken measures in their own private lives minding their own families and people in here. Protocols have kept the nursing home Covid free, hopefully that will keep happening over the next few weeks," said Ms Cronin.

She went on to explain the lengths staff go to ensure the safety of residents and the anxiety they feel bi monthly awaiting Covid test results.

"Keeping Covid out is probably just as hard as if it's in. With serial testing there's always that fear and anxiety, you hope the test comes back negative, no one wants to be the one who tested positive. It's the staff that do the work to keep it out."

She adds, "You send your husband or partner to do shopping, you're afraid to go to the shop. We have to be very mindful in our own homes.

"You're changing clothes before coming in here, changing shoes and changing clothes before you go home."

There are currently 42 residents at the nursing home and 56 staff altogether. Residents range in age from 65 to 103.

Asked if the home has had any staffing issues because of the pandemic, Ms Cronin says there has been times a few staff have been off because of close contacts, however, they haven't had huge issues so far with staffing, thankfully.

The Clinical Nurse Manager admits it has been tough, with social distancing, isolating and the daily lives of the residents of the home being changed because of Covid-19.

"The comforting smile of a carer is hidden behind a mask, meals are alone or at a distance, no sitting near someone for a quiet chat, no handshakes."

Although these protocols have to be maintained, nursing home staff are trying their best to still keep a sense of normality for the benefit of the wellbeing of residents.

"For residents we have an activities coordinator, that happens all week, residents in their rooms have one to one time.

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"They're updated with leaflets and reassurance from us about news. We have small bingo sessions, four in a pod. We have music and great activities. It's all small pods of four and five."

When restrictions permitted it, residents at the nursing home could see loved ones via a visitors' 'pod'. An extension put in place outside the nursing home itself. Visitors could speak to residents through an intercom system.

"It's all enclosed, there's a heater, sanitiser, sprays for cleaning. Each person cleans down the area before they leave it."

These days visits in the pod have decreased because of Covid in the community," the Clinical Nurse Manager explains.

As another precaution at the home, the nursing home is split into two sides, and nobody mixes between those. Staff on each side do not change side and it is the same for residents.

Asked what the vaccine will mean for residents and staff, Ms Cronin simply says, "relief".

"There's hope in the air for residents and staff that there might be some return to normality. Staff feel they can have a life again outside work and they won't endanger the lives of residents in here."

Ms Cronin says the introduction of the vaccine will also be a huge boost of morale for staff, and peace of mind for residents.

"For residents they won't be afraid if they have a cough or cold or sore throat, that it's not Covid related. You feel you'll be protected a little bit more. Residents depend on us to be safe so they can be safe. They depend on us to not do anything outside work that would impact on their lives, that's what it is about."

The nursing home has been given a date later this month for the introduction of vaccines, however, this date could be brought forward.

"Right now we're preparing documentation for vaccines."

She says the prevention of Covid entering the home, and the continued ability to take care of residents could not have been achieved without the hard work of staff and the support of others.

"We couldn't do this without the staff, they're so good, the support of families in the community and the support of the local GP practice, they've been amazing."

She also says the Sonas governance team made a huge effort in supporting staff through training, staffing and provision of PPE, along with continued encouragement, and the home's wellbeing program.

Meanwhile, the total number of Covid cases within the county stand at 1,780 as of Sunday's NPHET figures. A further 24 new cases were confirmed up to midnight on Saturday, with 553 new cases recorded in the last 14 days, a much welcomed decrease.

Some early signs that tighter lockdown measures are working could be seen in the county's 14 day incidence rate, which is now at 843.8 per 100,000 population. This is down from over 1,000 in the past number of weeks.

While there are glimmers of hope, Sligo University Hospital staff are currently treating 39 patients with Covid-19 as of 8pm on Sunday evening, with two people being treated in its critical care unit.

There were seven general beds available at the hospital according to Sunday's figures, with one critical care bed available.

‘I miss seeing my grandchildren, giving them a hug’

A nursing home resident has said she is looking forward to hugging her grandchildren once she gets the Covid-19 vaccine.

The 66-year-old resident of Sonas Ard na Greine Nursing Home in Enniscrone has said that is one of the most difficult parts of the pandemic.

"I have three little girls, I miss seeing them, I miss my son and daughter in-law," the doting grandmother told The Sligo Champion, as she awaits her Covid-19 vaccine later this month.

The vaccination of nursing home residents across Sligo is due to start this week and it is envisaged all residents of public and private homes will have received their vaccination by the end of February.

The nursing home resident admits the last ten months have been difficult.

"I miss so much seeing my grandchildren, giving them a hug. Sometimes I see them at a pod, they're up in Meath, it's hard not seeing them."

When restrictions permitted it, residents at the nursing home could see loved ones via a visitors' 'pod'. An extension put in place outside the nursing home itself. Visitors could speak to residents through an intercom system.

Though she says the pandemic has been "very tough", the resident, who has been at Ard Na Greine for the last three and a half years, says staff and carers are "so kind".

"Of course I'm worried, but staff and carers are so good, the carers are so good and so kind. They are very diligent. They do everything they can to put you at ease."

Asked if she is looking forward to receiving the vaccine, the grandmother said she is looking forward to having it "sooner rather than later".

"I can't wait for it to come. It will be a relief. You might be able to go outside the door then, hopefully.

"I look forward to seeing my grandchildren and get a hug.

They send cards and ring every day, that makes me sad [not seeing them]. Please God it [the pandemic] will be over shortly."

Sligo Champion


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