Irish Medical Organisation

IMO: Covid-19 highlights need for new approach to nursing home residents

- Calls for immediate planning to prevent seasonal influenza outbreak in nursing homes

Thursday, June 25th, 2020. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has called for a new approach to managing care for older persons in nursing homes in the light of Covid-19.  The organisation has also called for urgent preparatory planning to prevent seasonal influenza outbreaks in nursing homes. 

This follows a meeting between the IMO and the Covid-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel, which was established by the Minister for Health. The organisation said that the pandemic has highlighted the need for a new, more collaborative system of care for older people supported by adequate resources, suitable policies and governance structures.

The IMO said that the pandemic had shown that there was an absence in planning at a national level for how healthcare could be provided to Covid-19 patients in nursing homes as well as a poor assessment of risk while transferring patients from hospitals to residential care facilities.

It highlighted particular concerns in relation to:

• The provision of personal protective equipment (PPE);

• Staffing levels, training and organisation;

• Isolation facilities for Covid-19 patients.

Speaking today, Dr. Denis McCauley, Chair of the IMO GP Committee, said: “Covid-19 has exposed the significant problems that exist in our fragmented nursing home sector, which is devoid of proper planning and integrated care pathways. GPs should continue to be the primary medical care provider for nursing home residents but a far greater level of support is required so we can firstly deliver appropriate care and secondly have a range of services available to us to support that medical care. It is regrettable that our most vulnerable citizens are the ones that have borne the brunt of this sectoral failure in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis.”

Dr. Ronan Collins, a Consultant Geriatrician on the IMO Consultant Committee, said: “Our population is ageing. While we are ageing more healthily, there is a widespread need to prepare for loss of function and support our older citizens to remain at home as long as possible, and nursing home care should be a last resort. Currently resources for home care packages are insufficient to meet either demand or the complexity of care required. We urgently need to invest in the provision of appropriate home care services but when an older person requires nursing home care we must ensure we have a holistic approach to care with input from a range of specialties like geriatricians and public health so as we can better support GPs in delivering care.”

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