Lowry Welcomes New Covid-19 Measures for Nursing Homes

Deputy Michael Lowry has welcomed the new health safety measures announced by Minister for Health, Simon Harris to help curtail the spread of Covid-19 in addition to financial supports of up to €72million. Addressing the Dáil on Thursday last, Deputy Lowry highlighted the fact that Nursing Homes have the explosive potential to spread the virus and that everything possible must be done as a matter of urgency to protect vulnerable residents in the place they call home. He also called for immediate assistance for staff in the form of additional staff members and a guaranteed supply of PPE stating that, if action was not taken immediately, Nursing Home staff would be left with no alternative but to refuse to go to work to protect their health and the health of their families.

There are currently forty clusters of infection with Covid-19 in Nursing Homes to date. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre deems a cluster to be where there are three or more cases in an institution within a 72 hour period.

Addressing a televised media briefing today, Minister Harris announced that Nursing Home staff are to have their temperatures checked twice a day, as part of new measures to tackle the coronavirus in these settings.

National and regional Covid-19 infection prevention and control teams are being set up, and advisers will liaise with each nursing home and homecare providers on this.

Minister Harris said that equal supply of personal protection equipment (PPE) and access to oxygen will be provided to nursing homes and homecare providers.

He said that movement of staff between nursing home settings needs to be minimised and that nursing homes should carry out “active screening” of staff twice a day. The recommendation that the temperature of all staff is taken twice a day is to ensure that if any staff member is feeling unwell or developing symptoms of a fever that they can go home.

Each nursing home will also have to produce a Covid-19 preparedness plan and allocate a team, or at least one person, to be their lead contact on the virus.

Mr. Harris also stated that in addition to these measures, a temporary Covid-19 financial support scheme is being introduced and will be established in the coming days, to support the critical services provided by nursing homes.

The scheme will provide a temporary assistance payment to support private and voluntary nursing homes in managing any outbreak that occurs. It is envisaged that the scheme will operate for a three-month period. It will be reviewed after the first month’s operation.

Providing the financial supports to nursing homes actively managing an outbreak could cost up to €72 million over three months.

Minister Harris said this would be the cost if every nursing home claimed the maximum benefit.

The first is a support payment per month, based on the number of residents on the Fair Deal scheme. This would be €800 per resident per month, for the first 40 residents. After this, it would be €400 per resident per month for the next 40 residents and €200 per resident per month thereafter.

Nursing homes that are actively managing an outbreak of the virus can seek an enhanced assistance programme.

This would be a maximum payment of €75,000 per month. This payment is available for April, May and June and will be reviewed after that.

Last night, the Chief Executive of the Health Service Executive, Paul Reid, said teams of senior nurses and public health doctors would be sent into nursing homes to support them in their efforts to control the virus. They will also be ensuring that agency nursing staff would not be attending multiple nursing homes. The medical personnel are being deployed in crisis response teams and their task will be to assist and advise staff on how best to contain and deal with infections.

In welcoming the new measures introduced, Deputy Lowry said that he will be closely monitoring the situation in Nursing Homes across Tipperary and advised staff or anyone with concerns to make them known immediately.

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