Speaking in support of the motion brought forward by Sinn Féin on long-term residential care Cavan-Monaghan TD, Pauline Tully, has said that while much action was taken to curtail the spread of the Covid-19 virus the stark truth is that the Government failed to protect residents in nursing homes who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Teachta Tully said:
“Residents of nursing homes have accounted for over 40% of all Covid-related deaths. The fact that over 2,000 people in nursing homes contracted the virus and died as a result is a damning indictment on the health service of this country.
“Many staff in nursing homes are to be commended on the work they did to ensure that nobody living in their establishment contracted the virus.
“However, unfortunately a number of nursing homes were asked by the HSE in their area to accept people from hospitals and were told the people being moved had tested negative for Covid and were, therefore, safe, only to be told a week later that some tests had come back positive. At that stage, the virus had spread among the residents of that particular nursing home.
“That is disgraceful and should never have been allowed to happen.
“There needs to be a full investigation into nursing home deaths due to Covid-19.
“A nursing home, as its name indicates, is, in the first instance, a home for elderly people who are no longer able to live in their own homes and who require care and support. Everyone should feel safe in their own home.
“While I know that is not always the case, it should be for the residents of nursing homes. There are paid professionals in nursing homes to care for the residents.
“The lack of visitation allowed during the pandemic has also led to concerns for the welfare of residents of nursing homes.
“The isolation, loneliness, mental health issues, neglect of care and occasional instances of abuse have gone undetected by family members and friends due to the fact that they could not visit their loved ones in nursing homes for a period of a year.
“It is important that staff in nursing homes are mandated to report suspicions of neglect of residents, abuse of residents, or both, to An Garda Síochána and to safeguarding and protection teams.
“I am aware of members of staff who did the right thing, reported abuse of residents in nursing homes, only to be victimised or shunned by other staff as a result.
“That sort of attitude must change.
“It must become mandatory to report suspicion of neglect or abuse within the nursing home sector, as is the case in the educational system.
“There are national standards for adult safeguarding. There are policies on safeguarding. They need to be strengthened through legislation and a national authority for safeguarding must be established with clear guidelines on how and to whom neglect or abuse should be reported.”