(09 October 2020) Age Action welcomes the recommendation of the Oireachtas Special Committee on COVID-19 Response that a public inquiry be established to investigate and report on all circumstances relating to each individual death from Covid-19 in nursing homes.
Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action said ‘In welcoming the committee’s support for a public inquiry we are particularly mindful of the many bereaved family members and friends who have lost a loved one during the pandemic. In talking to family members, it is clear that in certain nursing home settings the level of care was sub-optimal and inconsistent. In a number of situations, family member’s grief is compounded by the absence of transparency and a full account of the care and medical treatment decisions prior to their loved one’s death’.
‘A national level inquiry is an important step, it must ensure that it scrutinises the actions in a number of settings where there has been a higher than average number of deaths. It should also inquire into the timeline of actions and decisions by key statutory bodies, including HIQA, the HSE and the Department of Health and the associated structures established to address the pandemic. We need to know if 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’ said Connolly.
Overall, 56% of all deaths during COVID-19 took place in nursing homes (as of July 2020) where 0.65% of the population live, a much higher figure than internationally (approximately 25%) and placing Ireland at the ‘upper end of the spectrum’. Some 56% of nursing homes remained COVID-19 free during the period of the pandemic under review by the Special Committee.
Paddy Connolly stated, ‘The equality and human rights impacts of COVID-19 response measures have been significant and felt acutely and disproportionately by specific groups of the population, including older people. The evidence nationally and internationally points to the vulnerability to COVID-19 of those living in residential care. An inquiry must establish whether planning for these vulnerable groups was considered on an equal basis to other demographics in relation to early Government COVID-19 planning. To have public confidence an inquiry must be independent, rights-based, have a legal basis and report to the Oireachtas’.