Age Action has described the report of the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel published today as underwhelming in its reforming zeal and has called on the Minister for Health to urgently establish a Commission on Care.
Age Action also points out that the review was never designed to answer the questions many family members have, as to why their loved ones died, and this issue still remains to be addressed.
Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action said, ‘There are a number of useful recommendations in the report, in particular a recognition that the integration of private nursing homes into the wider health and social care structure should be advanced, that access to crucial home supports needs to be expanded and prioritised immediately and that a standardised care needs assessment should be rolled out across the country.’
Overall though the report is still very much imbedded with Ireland’s over-reliance on institutionalised models of care, which offer little choice and control to older people.
Older people consistently say they do not want to end up in nursing homes, yet we continue to incentivise nursing home care, spending twice the amount on nursing homes as we do on home care.
The report’s call for the Department of Health to ‘review and as appropriate following review develop policy and underpinning legislation, as necessary, for the introduction of a single integrated system of long-term support and care, spanning all care situations with a single source of funding’ is weak. It does not reflect the seriousness of recent events and lacks reforming ambition.
We don’t require more reviews, we require reform and a political urgency to deliver real reform in the care and supports we will all require as we age.
We need the Commission on Care to be immediately established and for it to be tasked with reforming our current model of disconnected and institutionalised care.
Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action said ‘Not surprisingly the review does not address the question of the high level of deaths in certain nursing homes. Families today, in reading the coverage of this report, will be upset and disappointed that the Government has not yet responded to their call for inquiries into those deaths.
The Minister for Health needs to respond publicly to these calls and set out where and how he intends to answer the questions family members have in regard to a number of settings where there was a higher than usual number of deaths, in the context of the challenges that COVID-19 posed.’
This report is only the beginning of the journey for Ireland in learning lessons from what has been a profoundly sad time for many people throughout the country
The Government needs to show its commitment to real reform of the care and support of older people and to answering the questions for the loved ones of those who have died.
Responding to the publication of the report Paddy Connolly said ‘The impact of the COVID-19 disease on people living in nursing homes is known in terms of the numbers of deaths and rates of infection. What is less well understood is the impact of response measures on the lives of people living in nursing homes during this period and the level of care they received. Questions arise including whether or not nursing home residents were afforded equal access to healthcare including end of life care, was their dignity and right to exercise choice and control over their own lives upheld and were response measures adequate, proportionate and non-discriminatory?’
56% of all deaths during COVID-19 took place in nursing homes as of July 2020 where 0.65% of the population live. In recent months gaps in the governance, clinical oversight and regulation across the nursing home sector have been highlighted through the Oireachtas Special Committee on COVID-19 response measures and the report of the Nursing Home Expert Panel, established by the Minister for Health.
‘The system of long-term care in Ireland remains disjointed. The lack of integration between home care and residential care continues to put people directly at risk. We need to re-evaluate and reassess the choice of care available for people in Ireland, one which provides for a human rights based approach to adequate, quality and affordable care supports across the lifecycle and that is implemented fairly to support people’s choice to age in place’ said Paddy Connolly.