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25 May 2022

Covid positive nursing home residents 'largely well' despite outbreak at 40% of homes

Covid positive nursing home residents are 'largely well' despite outbreak at 40% of homes

Covid positive nursing home residents are 'largely well' despite outbreak at 40% of homes

There are still “high numbers” of Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes with 40% of centres affected, the Dáil has heard.

As of today (Wednesday February 2), there were 225 nursing homes experiencing an outbreak of the disease, the Minister for Older People Mary Butler said.

Ms Butler said that serial testing of residents and staff has resumed as a targeted intervention “to provide important information on the distribution of cases and risk across nursing homes”.

However, she said vaccines were helping to protect residents, with those who test positive “remaining largely well”, while there are early indications that numbers are reducing.

She told the Dáil: “In nursing homes, which were prioritised in our vaccination programme, we are again seeing the positive impact of the vaccines manifesting in a less severe disease profile among residents.

“However, there are still high numbers of outbreaks in nursing homes, with outbreaks currently being experienced in over 40% of nursing homes.

“As of yesterday 225 nursing homes currently have an outbreak.

“However, residents who test positive are remaining largely well, and there are early indications our case numbers are reducing in nursing homes.

“The ongoing monitoring and management of Covid-19 across the nursing home sector remains a critical focus for me and the Government as a whole.”

New advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC) on relaxing visiting rules for nursing homes was published on Monday and is set to come into effect on February 8.

Ms Butler said concerns have been raised with her that in some cases visiting is not being facilitated at homes.

She said: “I want to be clear that this is not acceptable in the absence of a clear public health or infection prevention and control rationale. 

“I wish to remind nursing home providers of their obligations for facilitating visiting in nursing homes and the rights of residents to receive visitors.

“There has been significant support provided to nursing homes through the investment of significant public funding and it is of the utmost importance that providers facilitate visiting to the greatest possible extent.”

She said the HSPC guidelines should see nursing homes move towards “more normal visiting arrangements and access”.

“Residents can expect to be able to receive visitors indoors, at a minimum, on a daily basis, to further support the mental health and well-being and social connection for residents,” she said. 

“There will also be the introduction of a nominated support person.

“This person will be nominated by the resident and should normally have unrestricted access to the resident for most of the day, with the exception of some busy care times in the home.

“This will also support improved social connectedness during an outbreak.

“There will no longer be a need for visitors to show immunity to vaccination or previous infection.

“I very much welcome this approach to visiting and the further moves to restoring normalised access in nursing homes.” 

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