'Devastating blow' | 

Six Covid-19 deaths in Laois nursing home days before vaccinations were to begin

The outbreak has seen 52 of the 65 residents at Dromineen Nursing Home in Stradbally test positive for the virus, with 33 of the 75 staff also contracting the disease.

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Eoghan Moloney

Six residents of a Laois nursing home have died in the past week after contracting Covid-19, just days before residents at the facility were to receive their first dose of the vaccine.

The outbreak has seen 52 of the 65 residents at Dromineen Nursing Home in Stradbally test positive for the virus, with 33 of the 75 staff also contracting the disease.

The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were due to be administered to all residents of Dromineen on January 19 but the outbreak now means this has had to be postponed.

Gearóid Brennan, CEO of Brookhaven Healthcare who own Dromineen says the timing of the outbreak and its severity have come as a devastating blow.

“It’s a huge loss and I want to express my sympathy to the families of the residents who died, not just in our nursing home, but in the nursing home community, generally.

“It’s been devastating for everybody. For the staff who work tirelessly and develop close relationships with residents who they have grown to love. For the entire community of Stradbally it has been a devastating blow.

“We had managed to keep Covid-19 out of all five of our nursing homes for the entirety of last year and we were looking forward to the schedule of vaccinations commencing next week. In fact, two of our nursing homes are being vaccinated this week and Dromineen was supposed to be vaccinated on January 19. So, literally 19 days before we were due to be vaccinated, Covid hit.

“As we hear from Dr Colm Henry and other people, the virus is just rampant in the community and it was a race against time to get the vaccinations done,” Mr Brennan told Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One this morning.

Mr Brennan wanted to reassure people that his staff that we are working around the clock to ensure that all residents are protected and that “we have the minimum fallout from this event”.

“We’re cohorting people who are not positive and they are being isolated into separate groups and are being cared for by separate staff to ensure that the disease doesn’t spread into the different areas.

“We have accommodation on-site for staff and we are extremely grateful for them not going back to the community to their families during this critical period to ensure the additional protection of our residents at this time.”

While almost half of the 75 staff are Covid positive, Mr Brennan said agency and HSE staff have been drafted in to ensure patients can be cared for during the outbreak.

Tadhg Daly, Chief Executive of Nursing Homes Ireland confirmed there are “in excess” of 100 active outbreaks in nursing homes around the country.

“The alarming figure is that since January 1, there have been 15 new outbreaks in nursing homes and it is putting increasing pressure on the health service and nursing homes.

“We are back on high alert once again and hypervigilant given that we are so close to the vaccine and given the high numbers in the community. There’s no room for complacency at all,” Mr Daly told Morning Ireland.

The nursing homes chief said staff “have been heroic” during this pandemic, in relation to cohorting residents to ensure there’s no cross-infection, wherever possible.

He confirmed that from Wednesday, nursing home residents will now be tested every week as part of the serial testing programme.

This will continue for the next three to four weeks, until all nursing home residents have had their first dose of a vaccine.

“Serial testing is a critical tool in identifying cases due to the high number of asymptomatic cases, so this is a very positive development,” he said.

Mr Daly also said that active outbreaks will not stop vaccination teams from vaccinating residents in nursing homes who do not have the virus.

“The only people that will not get the vaccine are those that have had the virus in the last four weeks, under the clinical guidance issued by Pfizer.

"Clearly, if there is a large outbreak in some facilities, public health officials will have to make a decision on whether to vaccinate there at that time, but we are confident and hopeful the first dose of the vaccine will be administered to all residents of nursing homes by January 24”.

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