Nursing homes asked to take in patients without negative swab
Operators tell of concern with some saying they won’t accept move as it stands
NURSING homes are being asked to accept patients from acute hospitals without a negative swab for coronavirus.
In the absence of a swab to show the hospital transfers have tested negative, the homes are being advised “wherever possible” to isolate the patients in a single room for two weeks.
In correspondence seen by the Irish Independent ,a consultant in one Dublin Hospital told a colleague to inform nursing home operators that negative swabs are only required for “post-Covid patients”.
The consultant added: “For non-Covid patients there’s no requirement for swabs from hospital or community but both groups should be isolated with droplet precautions for two weeks.”
The consultant made reference to HSPC guidelines for residential Care Facilities (RCFs), updated on May 4, which state that in relation to asymptomatic patients: “Wherever possible, every resident transferred from an acute hospital to a RCF should be accommodated in a single room.”
The HSPC guidelines in relation to transfers also state:
“Although accepting admission or transfer of residents poses a risk of introducing Covid-19 to a RCF, this may be a necessary risk in the context of maintaining access to a critical service.”
Operators have raised concerns over the risk to vulnerable residents by taking acute hospital transfers without the assurance of a test for the virus. One, who spoke on condition on anonymity, said he would not accept any transfers without evidence of at least two negative swabs.
Meanwhile, Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, said nursing homes could not be forced to take hospital transfers.
“We would share the concerns expressed in relation to accepting hospital transfers that have not been tested.
“There is no way of knowing who patients have come in contact with. In the past we were very concerned that there was fairly significant numbers of discharges from the acute hospitals to nursing homes and there was question marks around that. Each nursing home has the right to decide themselves whether or not they accept transfers.”
In April, it was claimed that patient transfers from hospitals hit by Covid-19 into nursing homes had contributed to the crisis that unfolded in many of the care settings.
Nursing home operators claimed the transfers sparked fatal outbreaks among vulnerable residents and Mr Daly described the practice as a “big contributory factor” in the spread of the virus.
But earlier this week, HSE boss Paul Reid said there was “no evidence whatsoever” that Covid-19 infection spread into Ireland’s nursing homes by the discharge of elderly people into nursing homes in March.
Speaking at the Special Dáil Covid-19 Committee, Mr Reid said how the virus got into residential and nursing homes was still something the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was
“trying to get a better understanding of ”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday told the Dáil the Department of Health had set up an independent expert panel to make recommendations to ensure a proactive Covid-19 approach in nursing homes as “we may be living alongside the virus for quite some time”.
He said: “We need to know how we can better shield nursing homes in the second wave, if that is at all possible.”
Health Minister Simon Harris said the panel would consist of four members including a public health expert as chairperson, a geriatrician, a senior nurse and a public interest representative.
Meanwhile, a solicitor representing a HSE whistleblower who works at St Mary’s nursing home in Dublin’s Phoenix Park has called for greater transparency in relation to a HSE investigation into the matter. Twenty-four residents have died from Covid-19 in the facility. Caoimhe Haughey’s client made a protected disclosure alleging serious failings at the home. Ms Haughey claimed there was a “veil of secrecy” about the review.
The HSE has appointed a review team with an independent chair to examine the allegations made in the 35-page dossier.
Rejection: Paul Reid, HSE CEO, said there was no evidence that infection spread into homes by hospital discharges.