Covid-19 latest: HSE says south of country amongst areas with highest rate of outbreaks 

Covid-19 latest: HSE says south of country amongst areas with highest rate of outbreaks 

HSE CEO Paul Reid and Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer, HSE at Dr Steevens’ Hospital for the weekly HSE operational update on the response to Covid-19. Photograph: Leon Farrel / Photocall Ireland

The HSE’s Chief, Paul Reid has warned that teams are “stretched to the limit” as they try to support public and private nursing homes and long-term care facilities amid significant numbers of Covid-19 outbreaks.

At the HSE’s weekly briefing on Thursday, HSE Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor detailed how it is currently dealing with 560 open outbreaks across hospital and long-term residential care facility settings, of which 428 outbreaks are in residential care facilities.

Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer, HSE. Photograph: Leon Farrel / Photocall Ireland
Anne O’Connor, Chief Operations Officer, HSE. Photograph: Leon Farrel / Photocall Ireland

She said the south and east of the country were the worst affected.

“Outbreaks continue to be a challenge for us,” said Ms O’Connor.

“The South and the East continue to be the areas with the highest rate of outbreaks and certainly the capacity that is required still, particularly in our community services, to support nursing homes and other residential care facilities experiencing outbreaks is quite significant,” she said.

Ms O’Connor said that as of this week, the HSE is supporting 1,466 long-term residential care facilities nationally with specific supports to 279 of those.

“Across all of our long term residential care facilities, we are now experiencing outbreaks in 21 per cent of all of them. In relation to nursing homes and older persons specifically, there’s 193 centres with outbreaks- that’s now 34 per cent of all of the nursing homes,” she said.

In the region of 2,000 staff are unavailable for work across nursing homes.

More than 60 outbreaks in Cork and Kerry 

Locally, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said it is supporting the residents of “a significant number of private nursing homes where there are Covid-19 outbreaks, as well as supporting our own residential facilities where there are outbreaks”.

In a statement, it said there are currently more than 60 outbreaks in residential settings such as private nursing homes, community hospitals, disability centres and mental health services across Cork and Kerry, although it said the majority of these outbreaks are in residential centres for older people.

“Our absolute priority in all cases is to make sure the residents of nursing homes (whether the facility is a public or private) continue to receive the care they need, despite the challenge presented by Covid-19 related staff leave.

“The level of staff ill with Covid-19 across the health service means that it is difficult for some locations to maintain their staffing at the levels needed, and this is a constant challenge. Staff are going to heroic lengths to make sure that residents continue to receive the care they need,” the statement said.

Staff redeployed 

Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said that where possible, it has redeployed staff, particularly nurses and healthcare assistants. 

“We are incredibly grateful to these staff for agreeing to be redeployed at short notice to settings in crisis due to Covid-19 outbreaks. We would like to thank the many nurses and healthcare staff who have so far come forward to work additional hours and shifts, or who have been redeployed, and who are making such a difference at this time.

“We have also worked with private nursing homes in order to put them in touch with other sources of staff – for example, nurses working in other settings such as GP practices have offered to work some shifts in nursing homes in crisis.

“We have requested the assistance of the Defence Forces in providing support around cleaning and waste disposal at a number of nursing homes in crisis, allowing our nurses and healthcare assistants to focus on the care of residents and patients,” it added.

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