Health Minister Simon Harris has announced a €72m financial bailout for private nursing homes struggling to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr Harris announced the package after it emerged there were 40 nursing homes with clusters of Covid-19 cases – meaning more than two people have contracted the virus.
The two pronged financial support scheme will see private nursing home operators paid €800 extra per month for every resident they have on the Fair Deal scheme up to 40 residents. They will be paid €400 per month for the next 40 and €200 for any thereafter that.
In addition, nursing homes will be able to claim up to €75,000 for any extra expenses they incur from introducing new measures to protect residents from the Coronavirus. A business case will have to be made to the Department of Health for this funding.
The minister also announced a series of new public health measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus between nursing home residents and staff.
Nursing homes applying for the financial aid will have to adhere to the conditions of the new policies in return for the funding.
This includes a major clampdown on agency staff travelling between nursing homes.
Staff will also be screened for the virus twice a day and have their temperature taken on each occasion.
Special infection controls teams will be establish to liaise with nursing homes and the Health Inspection Quality Authority (Hiqa) will also inspect every residential care facility for older people.
Nursing homes will also be required to draft individual plans for tackling Covid-19. Minister Harris said: “The nursing home sector cares for one of the most precious, and vulnerable groups in our society. We must do everything we can to support them to help break the transmission of the virus.
“To this end we are extending supports to this sector so that they can continue their role in the overall public health response to COVID-19. Our goal, in these challenging times, is to protect our older people, wherever they are living.
“We must also support staff working in nursing homes, and ensure their safety and health as we continue to deal with this pandemic.
“It is vital we leave nobody behind as we navigate our way out of this pandemic,” he added.