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'devastating' ‘It is a nightmare, we had deaths’ - Covid’s heavy toll on nursing home which had avoided virus for almost a year

We asked families at that time to only visit if it was essential. We were one of the first nursing homes to do this. We were also one of the first to stop visits completely.”

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A lab technician with a swab at RocDoc's testing facility in the Blue Car Park of Dublin Airport for hauliers bound for France. The company have announced additional drive-thru testing services at Cork and Shannon Airports for hauliers arriving in cars. PA Photo

A lab technician with a swab at RocDoc's testing facility in the Blue Car Park of Dublin Airport for hauliers bound for France. The company have announced additional drive-thru testing services at Cork and Shannon Airports for hauliers arriving in cars. PA Photo

A lab technician with a swab at RocDoc's testing facility in the Blue Car Park of Dublin Airport for hauliers bound for France. The company have announced additional drive-thru testing services at Cork and Shannon Airports for hauliers arriving in cars. PA Photo

For almost a year, Covid-19 stayed beyond the walls of Greenpark Nursing Home in Tuam.

On March 6, 2020 long before the virus had begun to wreak havoc in care facilities across the country the McNamara family who run the home moved to protect residents and staff.

“We started our Keep it Out campaign on March 6 2020,” Jane McNamara told the Irish Independent.

“We asked families at that time to only visit if it was essential. We were one of the first nursing homes to do this. We were also one of the first to stop visits completely.”

Then, during the summer, the easing of restrictions allowed for a local firm to install a marquee so residents could see family from a distance behind a Perspex screen. At Christmas, all visits stopped once again.

The strict policy on infection control worked. While dozens of nursing homes battled an invisible enemy, the residents and staff of Greenpark remained Covid-free.

Earlier this month, with the date for vaccinations confirmed, that all changed. A number of residents and staff fell ill, with tests confirming they had Covid-19.

“There is no denying, it is a nightmare,” said Ms McNamara. Since the outbreak took hold, several residents have died.

“We have quite a few residents who have tested positive,” said Ms McNamara. “Many are doing well but unfortunately we have had some deaths. We also have a lot of staff who have tested positive.”

Staffing shortages became so acute the home put a call out on social media for qualified nurses and carers, who might be able to help, to get in touch.

“People have gone to extraordinary lengths to make this nightmare a little more bearable,” said Ms McNamara.

“We have had people from the community come to our aid in our time of need, people who have nothing to gain and so much to lose. Nurses and carers have put their hands up and said, ‘We will help’. Their contribution and bravery is beyond words.”

While the HSE has provided support staff, the crisis continues to take its toll on the home’s own employees.

“The most taxing part has been staff members testing positive for Covid-19 on a near daily basis,” said Ms McNamara.

“This is very difficult to deal with psychologically. You wonder will it be me next? How bad will it be? This is when the volunteers give us that extra hand and lift our spirits.”

A vaccination team visited last week, giving the first dose of inoculations to residents and staff who had not been affected by the current outbreak.

It is hoped those who did not receive their vaccines due to Covid-19 will be inoculated at a later date.

Ms McNamara paid tribute to the families who have residents under her care.

“It is often hardest on those who cannot come in and do something,” she said.

“Families are worried and scared for their loved ones. They can’t come in and sit with them or help to ease their fears, but they have given us nothing but complete support and understanding during what is an extremely difficult time for them also.

"Hopefully we will soon get through this and sometime in the future we will be able to thank everyone who supported us in so many ways at this difficult time.”

Online Editors


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