MAIRÉAD TÓIBÍN: "We need a full-scale independent investigation into the government's handling of Covid in nursing homes"
The Aontú candidate in the Dublin Bay South by-election, Mairéad Tóibín, has called for a full scale independent investigation into the government's handling of Covid-19 in nursing homes and hospitals.
Speaking today, Ms Tóibín said:
"I work as a pharmacist in a nursing home, so I've seen first hand the manner in which nursing homes have been treated since the start of this pandemic. At the very start of the pandemic when nursing homes voluntarily closed their doors to visitors they were told by NPHET and the government that restrictions around visitation at hospitals and nursing homes were 'not necessary' and then they reopened their doors. That NPHET statement came on 10th March 2020. It wasn't until 1st April that the government instructed nursing homes to close their doors, by which point the situation inside residential care facilities was rapidly deteriorating. The following day the Dáil was suspended for two weeks, so there was little accountability. When the Dáil finally returned we learned of the true horrors being experienced within nursing homes - the funding which had been announced had not been drawn down, nor had a mechanism been established through which nursing homes could drawn down the funding. Supplies of oxygen, PPE and staff which were designated for nursing homes had been, the Dáíl was told, 'intercepted' by the HSE - it was actually the then opposition spokesperson on health - Stephen Donnelly - who revealed this fact at the time".
Ms Tóibín continued: "The situation just went from bad to worse and at the present moment in time some 2,000 people have died with Covid-19 in nursing homes. A further 750 people died after contracting Covid-19 in hospital. When we take this combined figure of 2,750 deaths, we see that it represents 56% of the total Covid death toll in the State. This is an extraordinary figure - the majority of people who died with Covid-19 in this country caught the virus either in a nursing home or a hospital - the state was responsible for the care and well being of these people, may they rest in peace. There are serious questions to be answered here - the frontline workers did their level best in these settings, but they were abandoned by the government and the HSE".
"We all know someone who died having contracted Covid in hospital - perhaps an elderly person who suffered a small fall at home and presented to hospital to be checked out, only to contract Covid there and die within a week, without loved ones present. Such scenarios were extremely common and utterly devastating for the families involved. These families deserve answers. With staff shortages in hospitals the situation was all the more tragic - nurses and staff were busy trying to save lives so few were available to man the phone lines, thus families went for days without an update on their loved ones' conditions in some cases. Likewise in nursing homes, some nursing homes resorted to texting families, or taking to social media or the local airwaves crying for volunteers or staff supports mid-outbreak. The shocking part of all this is that information secured by our party - Aontú - shows that while roughly 73,000 people signed up to the government's "be on call for Ireland" recruitment initiative, only a mere 319 were actually recruited to work in the health service. Unless you worked in a nursing home during the pandemic it is difficult to comprehend the situation. Most nursing homes were left almost completely abandoned by the HSE. What happened here was a scandal of the highest order, one which merits debate in the Dáil and warrants a full scale independent investigation", concluded Ms Tóibín.