Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín has insisted that the failure to protect residents in nursing homes from coronavirus must be fully investigated.
“The deaths in nursing homes and the failures of the Government is a national scandal and must be examined and investigated to ensure that they never occur again,” he told The Irish Catholic.
Of the 1,743 Covid-19 deaths in the Republic, it is estimated that over 62% of those deaths occurred in nursing homes. According to the World Health Organisation the international average is 25%. WHO Special Envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro described Ireland as being in the “upper end” in terms of nursing home deaths.
“The families of those who have died and those still resident in nursing homes deserve more from the government,” Mr Tóibín said.
Commenting on the swift investigation launched over allegations of a leaked Garda file about Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen, Mr Tóibín warned that “many families of those who have suffered in nursing homes will be gobsmacked by the speedy attention received from the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green Government by a political leak in comparison to the complete lack of commitment to an investigation of what happened in our nursing homes.
“Ireland has had a higher proportion of fatalities in nursing homes than most other countries,” he said. Nearly one in five of the 30,000 nursing homes residents contracted coronavirus while one in every six who contracted it lost their life.
“It’s clear that those most vulnerable in Ireland were most exposed,” Mr Tóibín said.
“We need to learn serious lessons from this crisis and right now.
“We are by no means out of the woods. We need to make sure that we never let it happen again,” he said.
The Government has so far resisted calls for an inquiry into the handling of Covid-19 in the nursing homes sector. Last month, Church leaders pleaded for such an investigation.
The Council for Healthcare of the Irish bishops’ conference warned that lessons must be learned.
It said that “nursing homes should be prioritised by the State to ensure that they have the personnel and equipment necessary to deal with such crisis situations as soon as they arise.
“Every resident is someone’s mother, father, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or friend. They have played their part over many decades in contributing to their communities and to the economy. The lives of those who live in such facilities should be valued, respected, and enhanced,” it said.
The council said “we would welcome appropriate inquiries into the reasons why nursing care facilities were so badly affected. Lessons must be learned”.
Dr Marcus de Brun – a GP who quit his role in the Medical Council over the issue – described the management of the Covid-19 crisis as “the biggest political blunders in the history of the Irish State”.
Dr de Brun said those most at risk have “featured as something of an afterthought” to the HSE in the pandemic.