HSE chief to tell TDs of ‘very significant changes’ needed to treatment of vulnerable older people

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Paul Reid will appear before the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 this morning.

THE HEAD OF the Health Service Executive (HSE) will tell TDs today that Ireland requires “very significant changes” to the way it cares for vulnerable older people.

In his opening statement to the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19, Paul Reid will say that stronger efforts must be made to provide a safe model of care to such people in future.

Nursing homes have been one of the worst-hit areas of the Covid-19 outbreak in Ireland, with questions asked about the adequacy of the government’s response. 

Last month, the committee heard from the Health Information and Quality Authority that the HSE “did not know” the sector, and that the support that it provided private nursing homes was under-resourced and had become increasingly challenged.  

In his opening statement, Reid will say that the overall governance arrangements for private nursing homes will need to be significantly developed, along with HSE support structures and a model for long-term care and alternatives to it.

“It is clear that there is a requirement for very significant changes in relation to the models of care that are used in this country to care for our most vulnerable older people,” he will say.

“These changes require a concerted effort across policy makers, regulators, providers and clinical experts to achieve a safe and sustainable model of care into the future.”

Reid will also pay tribute to healthcare workers in residential care settings, as well as to community and family volunteers who he will say provide a “bedrock of support” to older people both at home and in care.

And he will warn that although Covid-19 is under control, there remains a risk of a second wave as Ireland continues to re-open its economy.

His statement says that the HSE did not have “the opportunity of a dress rehearsal” to plan for and manage the health crisis, and that information is constantly changing on  how the virus is transmitted and presents in different groups.

“It is therefore vital that all of the public health advice and guidance is followed by us all so that we continue to do everything we possibly can to prevent the resurgence and spread of this deadly virus,” he will say.

Separately, the secretary general at the Department of Health, Jim Breslin will tell the committee that half of all clusters of Covid-19 that were reported in nursing homes are no longer present.

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He will acknowledge what has been an “extremely challenging time” for nursing home residents, staff and their families, noting that 18% of all nursing home residents have had a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19.

“I want to recognise the enormous efforts of staff in nursing homes throughout the period and others who have supported them,” he will say.

“Because of their efforts 56% of all nursing homes have remained virus free and the great majority of residents never contracted the virus.

“This is in the context of a highly infectious virus; much more infectious than influenza, smallpox or measles.”

HSE CEO Paul Reid (file photo)

HSE CEO Paul Reid (file photo)

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