16.04.2020: Immediate action needed to save the lives of residents in nursing homes

“A dreadful indictment of our society that our elderly and most vulnerable citizens became the forgotten people” – O’Hanlon

Commenting on the tragic news of the very high numbers of people dying in nursing and residential homes from the Covid-19 virus, Pro Life Campaign spokesperson, Maeve O’Hanlon said:

“The fact that almost half of all deaths to date from Covid-19 in Ireland have occurred in nursing and residential homes is a devastating statistic. It was always going to be an immensely difficult challenge to protect the elderly and most vulnerable once the virus took hold, but a clear picture is starting to emerge that protecting residents of nursing homes was not given the priority it deserved when the HSE and others were planning their response to this crisis.

“There was the baffling HSE decision on 10th March to relax restrictions on visiting nursing homes, undoing the restrictions put in place by nursing home managers, followed by a clinical directive from the HSE to nursing home staff not to wear PPE equipment.

“The claim from nursing home representatives that the HSE were also actively poaching frontline staff from nursing homes to reassign to hospital settings as the Covid-19 crisis started, is very troubling. So too is the claim that acute hospital beds were freed up by moving patients to nursing homes, which in turn likely contributed to the spread of Covid-19 in these homes.

“It is clear from these and other decisions taken that nursing home residents were effectively abandoned by the Government at the early planning stage, leading to the catastrophic situation we now find ourselves in. It’s true that the Government and HSE were under intense pressure trying to manage an unprecedented situation but that does not excuse their failure to look out for residents and staff in residential homes, given that it was widely known at the start of this crisis that elderly people were at gravest risk from the virus.

“It is a terrible indictment of our society that our elderly and most vulnerable citizens became the forgotten people when they should have been a top priority.

“It is a futile exercise to indulge in a blame game now, but it is not a pointless exercise to highlight the shortcomings in order to salvage what can be salvaged in the coming months to protect the most vulnerable.

“The Government and National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) must be held more accountable for their actions. And that accountability needs to happen immediately. With each passing day more and more lives are being lost. No stone should be left unturned to assemble the expertise needed to protect the lives of our beautiful and beloved elder and dependent citizens, who deserve nothing but the very best care and protection from this State.”