A voluntary process has been agreed between unions and the Health Service Executive to allow nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and other healthcare staff to be redeployed into private nursing homes during the Covid-19 crisis.
INMO Industrial Relations Officer Tony Fitzpatrick said it has been agreed that in an emergency situation public sector staff will work in private nursing homes to ensure patients are looked after.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, he said there have been situations in private nursing homes where there are no staff to work particular shifts due to illness or availability.
Mr Fitzpatrick said that all unions working together had reached a “historical” agreement for redeployment across HSE and Section 38 hospitals and facilities as well as for a massive redeployment in community assessment hubs.
He also said it showed that it falls back on the public sector to bail out other sectors and it shows that massive public funding of public healthcare is needed down the road.
Greater monitoring of the impact of Covid-19 on nursing homes has been promised by health officials.
A national study is being set up by the HSE to examine the prevalence of cases in nursing homes and other residential healthcare facilities, with 187 coronavirus-related deaths having been officially reported in nursing homes.
Developments in nursing homes are to be closely monitored and extra supports are being promised, where needed.
Earlier, a consultant geriatrician at Cork University Hospital said more nursing staff need to be re-deployed to support staffing challenges in nursing homes during the Covid-19 crisis.
Dr Emer Ahern said the Department of Health and the HSE need to examine and endorse how to re-allocate staff from different sectors to help deliver care in the nursing home sector as staff in homes get sick or need to self-isolate.
She said the anticipated surge is not being seen in hospitals but is being felt in nursing homes and residential facilities.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Ahern said there is cross-sector movement of nursing staff happening for the first time.
In Cork, in each community area specialist teams are helping nursing homes with consistent public health infection controls, nursing and palliative medicine advice.
She said they are working to create “a bank of nursing” in Cork to help support nursing homes if staff are out with illness or self-isolation.
“This is people’s homes and a lot of them want to remain there to receive their care”, she said.
She said the situation is very concerning and those with needs in nursing homes are more vulnerable to the virus and in some nursing homes there can be staff and patients getting sick together.
Dr Ahern said the issue of Personal Protective Equipment appears to be improving, but staff need more gowns and other safety equipment to protect themselves and patients.
She stressed that most older people without comorbidities (one or more additional medical conditions) will recover from Covid-19, whether at home or in nursing homes, and there is no issue with people accessing hospital care from nursing homes if need be as there is capacity available.
Dr Ahern said ICU admission follows best practice on a case-by-case basis.
From RTE News.