Nursing homes call for serial Covid testing to be reintroduced

Serial testing was phased out by the HSE as cases declined. It is currently only available to homes where an outbreak was confirmed to help contain it.
Nursing homes call for serial Covid testing to be reintroduced

Digital Desk Staff

Serial testing for Covid-19 should be reintroduced to protect nursing home residents as cases rise, Nursing Homes Ireland has said.

As the Irish Examiner reports, since June 27th, there have been 1,751 cases recorded in nursing homes, including 87 from 12 new outbreaks last week.

Since that date there have been 106 Covid deaths recorded in the homes by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

Serial testing was phased out by the HSE as cases declined. It is currently only available to homes where an outbreak was confirmed to help contain it.

Nursing Homes Ireland chief executive Tadhg Daly estimates it is being used in between 180 and 190 homes, but he wants to see it more widely available again.

“If there was high incidence in a community and a nursing home felt they wanted to introduce testing, we’re saying there should be quick and timely re-engagement with serial testing based on local needs,” he said, adding infection control poses “a huge challenge“ despite the significant vaccination benefits.

“You have some homes now having to close beds as a result of staff being out. We have seen that in a few places,” he said.

“That is a concern for the winter. It is not widespread as of yet, but it is a concern given the role the sector plays in terms of timely discharges [from hospitals] that you would have a situation whereby the full capacity might not be utilised.”

NIAC advice

He also expressed disappointment it has not been possible to give residents under-65 a booster vaccine in line with advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) up to Monday.

“It does pose challenges,” he said. “You had staff trying to explain to families why their particular family member wasn’t going to receive one.”

Logistically, it would appear easier to maximise the resources and give all residents the booster together, he said.

The HSE has estimated more than 1,300 under-65s live in nursing homes.

Mr Daly also called for a “quick and effective rollout” of booster shots for staff, if this is decided upon by Niac this week. He predicted staffing would be a challenge this winter, although he welcomed recent changes to the work permit system which made it easier to hire certain categories of staff from abroad.

Members have also raised concerns with NHI about ongoing costs of implementing recommendations from the Covid-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel, he said.

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