The Irish government is coming under mounting pressure over the number of deaths in care homes.
Residential and community care facilities including nursing homes now account for more than 62 per cent of COVID-19 deaths, according to recent figures released by the Department of Health.[contfnewc] [contfnewc]
That proportion has risen in recent weeks and is high compared to several other EU countries, where around half of coronavirus deaths are believed to occur in nursing homes.
One nurse, who asked not to be identified, told Euronews that more than half of the care staff at the nursing home where she works are off sick, and they now rely on ad-hoc agency personnel to take their place.
“Theyre moving from different nursing homes and different hospitals throughout the country all over Ireland, so its not just ours,” she said.
“Many of those Ive spoken with havent been tested, and the reason they havent been tested is theyve displayed no symptoms.”[contfnewc]
As of Monday evening, 1,467 people had died from COVID-19 in Ireland, and 23,135 have tested positive for the virus, according to new figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team.
On Friday, Health Minister Simon Harris said progress was being made to fight the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, but that it remained an “area of concern”.
Ireland’s chief medical officer said COVID-19 was likely introduced into Irish nursing homes inadvertently by staff members.
“Some of the earlier epidemiological studies have shown us a key factor in how this has spread in nursing homes has been care staff working across different staff, and not only working across different staff but actually how they live outside of work,” said Dr Sean Kennelly, at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.
“Some of the staff are from foreign countries and are living together with staff who are working in other nursing homes or working in the acute hospital setting, so there has always been that risk of it spreading from site to site.”
The Irish Health Service has announced a large package of financial assistance and staffing support.
But in the meantime, the situation is taking its toll.
“We regularly cry in work,” said the nurse who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“A common joke in work is that its good that we have our face masks on because most of us are crying underneath them for the majority of the day. And its either grief for residents whove passed, or guilt that you cant spend the time that you want to with the residents with dementia.”