03.04.2020: Nursing home healthcare deployment welcomed but urgent accommodation initiative needed to prevent Covid death disaster, Mullen says

Time of the essence: Calling on shuttered hotels to offer rooms to nursing and home care staff

Senator Rónán Mullen this evening repeated his call on hotels and local authorities nationwide to make a co-ordinated effort to prevent hospital, nursing home and home-care staff from spreading or catching Covid 19.

“I welcome the announcement that doctors and nurses are to be deployed to nursing homes to prevent the spread of the disease. However, I am concerned that no plan is yet in place to provide suitable accommodation to prevent infection from being brought into healthcare settings or homes by healthcare, nursing home care and home cares workers. Time is of the essence to avoid needless deaths in the coming days from Covid 19 across a range of care settings.”

“As the coronavirus takes hold in some nursing homes, there have been cases where healthcare, catering and maintenance staff have left work out of fear of bringing the virus home to their families. This haemorrhaging of personnel is obviously going to put vulnerable people at risk. But there is also the risk that elderly or sick people may contract the virus from carers working in a healthcare or home-care setting, who may contract the virus from their own family members or other persons they are caring for.”

“The health authorities are under enormous pressure at the moment and I worry that we may not get preventive action as quickly as possible. I am therefore asking hotels around the country, which have closed for business during the crisis, to re-open and to offer temporary emergency accommodation to healthcare personnel working locally in hospital, nursing home or home-care settings, who wish to avail of this. I realise that this proposal implies a big sacrifice on the part of carers, many of whom may be people on a low income. But we know that many of these carers live in crowded accommodation. We also know that some healthcare staff are looking for accommodation so that they can avoid infecting their families.”

“There will be financial, logistical, insurance and health issues to be considered. But I am asking hotels to step up voluntarily with an offer to help and I believe that local authorities should move in behind them to help co-ordinate this on a county-by-county basis.”

“There is no reason why the State should not compensate accommodation providers or provide the necessary logistical back-up. But I think a community response is needed if tragedy is averted. Local authorities and hotel owners should not wait for a call from the State. This is an emergency.”

“I am basing this call on expert knowledge available to me from people working to protect public health. I realise that this is a challenging call. But we are in a highly dangerous situation.

“I also believe there is potential to deploy assistance from the Defence Forces in a number of ways here, possibly in helping to run these accommodation facilities where needed or in the training of home help and nursing home volunteers who may be using personal protective equipment for the first time,” Mullen concluded.