shock findings Nursing home gifts blamed as source of Covid
A SURVEY of nursing homes has found that items and gifts that families sent in to older residents during the pandemic were identified as a potential source of Covid-19 outbreak in a nursing home.
Ten nursing homes claimed to have provisionally established the source of outbreaks in their care homes, according to the survey commissioned by the trade body for the sector, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI).
Three sources of infection were listed as staff who did not show symptoms, a hospital attendance or admission and in one case, “items sent in from a family member that tested positive”.
The report, which was circulated to members of NHI last week, noted that it was unknown if these potential sources had been independently verified by public health teams.
A survey also highlighted how cocooning vulnerable residents and shielding them from visitors can impact on their health. It found that residents in some nursing homes suffered an increase in pressure and bed sores from a lack of mobility, but there were also fewer falls.
Nursing homeowners who responded to the survey reported that weight loss was also common in older residents during the pandemic.
According to the report, the prolonged cocooning and fewer opportunities for mobility could have contributed to a reduction in the number of falls. However, it may also have increased the incidence of pressure ulcers.
The survey suggested that a small number of nursing homes that reported increases in falls and in cases of delirium, each had outbreaks of Covid-19 and it noted that both are symptoms of the virus in older people.
The survey of nursing homes, conducted between May and June by SM Consulting for NHI, also highlighted the scale of outbreaks across various nursing home outlets.
The report highlighted the difficulties endured by care home operators and staff during the pandemic, with staffing levels, access to supplies, testing and managing anxieties as some of their key challenges.
One nursing home had 50pc of their nurses off at one time, whereas another director of a nursing home reported working 24-hour shifts. A further two respondents highlighted the scale of the outbreak and the rapid progression of the disease contributing to the increased workload for staff.
The nursing homes also criticised State agencies.
“We did everything we possibly could to stop it getting in. Our provider made available every resource — human and financial, without restriction, and we implemented guidance well ahead of public health advice,” one care home provider said.
“We did not know what we were facing… We saw nobody from public health, Hiqa, CHO7 and barely saw our GP. We were left to fend for ourselves for the most part aside from telephone advice and webinars mainly focused on palliative care.”
Another provider said: “I would consider myself very informed and began planning in February prior to the first case in Ireland. We had some PPE and were reassured that the HSE would provide us with more if needed. We were also told initially that positive cases would be cared for in hospital and that testing capacity was sufficient.
“All of these assumptions were false and we were repeatedly let down on these aspects for weeks and weeks until the problem was so serious it could not be ignored any further.
“We had no guidance until late March, by which point the virus had already been seeded in our staff, if not also our residents, and we were on a trajectory which could not be avoided at that stage.”
Some of the experiences recorded in the survey covered the first wave of the virus, which emerged again last week when a nursing home in Ahascragh, Co Galway suffered a major Covid outbreak.
The director of the nursing home appealed for help after 22 out of 24 residents tested positive for the virus. One resident died.
Patricia MacGabhann, director of nursing at Nightingale Nursing home, told RTÉ’s LiveLine that one nurse and one carer were looking after 24 residents and had been working 13-hour shifts. Ms MacGabhann also tested positive for the virus — as had many of her staff, who were self-isolating.
She told Liveline: “We’re trying to keep them [residents] alive and well, and we really feel abandoned. That’s the truth.”
The HSE said it was helping the nursing home.