Nursing homes still under "immense pressure"

Staffing and PPE are major issues
  • Deborah Condon

Private and voluntary nursing homes continue to be placed under immense pressure during the COVID-19 crisis as a result of staffing concerns and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), a survey has shown.

Some 233 private and voluntary nursing homes took part in the survey, which was undertaken by Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) on May 6.

The findings revealed that over 1,100 staff were unavailable to work, including over 300 senior and general nursing staff, and over 600 healthcare assistants.

When asked if additional staff had been made available by the HSE, 88% of nursing homes said no.

Where staff had been made available, this included no senior nurses, 40 nurses and just 26 healthcare assistants.

When the nursing homes were asked if they were satisfied with the supply of PPE that they had, 25% said they were not satisfied with the amount of gloves they had, 41% were not satisfied with the amount of gowns they had, 40% were not satisfied with the amount of face masks they had, while 11% were unhappy with the amount of hand sanitiser they had.

The survey allowed nursing homes to comment on this and comments included:
-90% of our PPE was sourced privately and not provided by the HSE
-Infrequent deliveries, normally with what you didn't want
-Shockingly little supplies with numbers of residents in isolation
-Wrong size gloves - too big. Need more facemask and more gowns.

Commenting on the findings, NHI chief executive, Tadhg Daly, insisted that nursing homes remain "under immense pressure".

"Pressures continue to be applied across staffing, PPE and testing. It should be acknowledged the State stepped forward to support our sector late in the day and this has made an impact. But seismic challenges persist and we continue to engage with the Minister for Health, his department and the HSE in addressing such.

"We reiterate our call for the State's assistance scheme to enable nursing homes to meet the huge costs incurred to manage COVID-19 to encompass the 5,000 residents in our nursing homes that are not funded by Fair Deal," Mr Daly said.

NHI pointed out that as half of private and voluntary nursing homes completed the survey, "the indication is 2,000+ staff are unavailable to private and voluntary nursing homes due to COVID-19".

"COVID-19 presents a crisis that our health services cannot manage in isolation. We welcomed the support offered by the HSE in staffing redeployment and appreciate those that have stepped forward. But it is disappointing that the number has been small," Mr Daly said.

He also pointed out that while mass testing has been undertaken, concerns persist about the time it takes to receive results.

Of the nursing homes surveyed about testing, just 1.5% received their results within 24 hours, while 4% received them within two days.

Some 4.5% were waiting longer than 10 days, while 24.5% were waiting between six and nine days.

"Timely turnaround of testing is absolutely vital to enable nursing homes implement required contingency measures. Mass testing has been a welcome development, but we cannot leave nursing homes in limbo as they strive to manage in unprecedented circumstances. Tests from nursing home residents and staff must be top of the queue," Mr Daly said.


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