HIQA Provides Damning Report Into Nursing Homes During Pandemic

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HIQA has today published a report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nursing homes.

The report details the findings of recent inspections and HIQA’s interaction with nursing homes throughout the outbreak, and describes the experiences of residents, their relatives and staff.

Throughout the public health emergency, HIQA has continued to regulate nursing homes. In line with international best practice, on-site inspections were temporarily suspended to prevent the spread of infection amongst nursing homes; however, HIQA remained in regular contact with the providers and managers of centres to monitor their ability to protect residents in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19.

A number of initiatives were introduced, such as HIQA’s Infection Prevention and Control Hub, the resumption of a programme of risk-based inspections, and the expedition of applications to open new nursing home beds.

Over the past few months, HIQA inspectors and staff have spoken to many people directly affected by the pandemic. Residents and staff told us their stories on inspection and also made contact with us by telephone or email in order to raise concerns or ask questions.

HIQA’s Chief Inspector of Social Services and Director of Regulation, Mary Dunnion, said: “COVID-19 has deeply affected many people and the fallout will be with us for a considerable period of time. Our sympathies go to all those who have lost a loved one or a friend due to the virus.
“Residents in nursing homes who spoke with inspectors expressed a range of emotions. Some feared contracting the virus and worried about their family and friends, while others felt a deep sense of isolation and loneliness as a result of the visiting restrictions. Without exception, residents were deeply grateful to staff in nursing homes for the care they provided in extremely challenging circumstances.

“Relatives and friends of residents spoke of the worry and anxiety they felt for their loved ones. Some reported that they experienced poor communication with nursing homes, which only served to heighten their anxiety. Others raised concerns regarding the adherence to public health guidance and the appropriate use of PPE.”

Ms Dunnion continued: “COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the need for reform of current models of care for older people in Ireland. The continued use of multi-occupancy rooms and outmoded premises in some nursing homes undoubtedly created challenges in containing the spread of infection. We must look to complementary models of care, such as homecare and assisted living, and ensure that there is improved clinical oversight in all nursing homes.

“Furthermore, the regulations governing nursing homes are outdated and must be revised to make them fit for purpose, particularly as regards governance, staffing numbers, skill-mix, and infection prevention and control. HIQA will continue to listen to the experiences of residents, relatives and staff to strive for safer, better care that focuses on the human-rights and individual needs of the person.”