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Nursing homes ‘neglected & abandoned’ during COVID-19 – Harty

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Residential settings have been neglected and feel abandoned, a Clare GP has highlighted.

As of Tuesday, 502 of the 730 deaths in the Republic of Ireland during COVID-19 had been in community residential settings, 427 of which were in nursing homes. These figures were announced by Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer.

Kilmihil based GP, Dr Michael Harty noted that Monday’s daily death announcement of 77 equated at 16 deaths per million of population. This he pointed out was higher than the Italian peak of 15 deaths per million of population that occurred three weeks ago when 919 Italians died on March 28th. “On these comparative statistics Ireland has a long way to go before we can feel confident to contemplate any substantial relaxation of lockdown and social distancing”.

He felt that individuals aged over 70 years of age that are currently cocooning should be allowed to go for a walk by themselves or with household companions “to preserve both their mental and physical health, provided they do not put themselves at risk by mixing with others”.

Focus on preparing intensive care units for a surge of COVID-19 cases had knock-on effects, Dr Harty said. “We neglected to protect our congregated settings for elderly care and other residential facilities. 50% of deaths originated from these care homes. From my experience residential facilities feel they have been neglected and abandoned by the Dept. Of Health and the HSE.

“They have been left to fight the virus mainly from their resources, poorly supported by HSE even though their management tried to highlight their vulnerability very early on in this pandemic. Residents of nursing homes are entitled to at least the same level of protection, even a greater level of protection because of their increased vulnerability, as everyone else”.

Harty added, “When this pandemic recedes completely, many months from now, we must never allow our health service to return to a two-tier system where access to services is preferentially delivered to those who can pay. This should be one of the salutary lesions of this pandemic: healthcare should not be rationed by limiting access to public services. Health inequality kills, our new government should take note”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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