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Coronavirus: Harris establishes nursing homes expert panel

Coronavirus: Harris establishes nursing homes expert panel

A nursing home expert panel will examine how the Government responded to Covid-19 as well as assessing best practice for the months ahead.

Minister for Health Simon Harris on Saturday announced the establishment of a Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel.

The decision comes following a recent National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommendation.

The panel will examine national and international measures in response to Covid-19, as well as emerging best practice to ensure all response measures are prepared for.

The Department of Health said this was in light of the expected ongoing Covid-19 risk and impact to nursing homes over the next six to 18 months.

The panel will report to the Minister by the end of June 2020.

There has been widespread concern over the number of deaths associated with residential care facilities, with more than 60 per cent of all Covid-19 deaths in Ireland related to care homes.

Mr Harris said: “Throughout the response to the pandemic there has been particular focus on the challenges in the nursing home sector and it has been and remains an absolute priority for me in the overall response to Covid-19.

“We must continue to plan appropriately to meet the ongoing challenges of Covid-19 into the foreseeable future.

“I believe that the establishment of a Covid-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel to examine and advise on these matters is a crucial aspect of good planning to support Ireland’s navigation through the Covid-19 landscape and ensure the best possible safeguards are in place to protect the many people who call nursing homes their home.”

The expert panel will be chaired by Professor Cecily Kelleher, principal of the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences, UCD. Professor Kelleher will be joined by Professor Cillian Twomey (a retired geriatrician), Petrina Donnelly, group director of nursing, RCSI Hospital Group, and Bridget Doherty, representing the public interest.

Mr Harris added: “I want to sincerely thank the experts for their willingness to undertake this important task and I look forward to working closely with them in the weeks ahead.”

It is expected that the expert panel will commence its scoping work early next week.

‘Hold firm’

Meanwhile, the head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) urged the public to “hold firm” over Covid-19 restriction measures.

Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, acknowledged that the public are worried about jobs and bills, but added that there “are bright days ahead”.

He made the comments as the number of patients with Covid-19 in hospitals continues to fall.

In a tweet Mr Reid said: “Like many people, today I feel for my family and friends who are worried about their jobs, are anxious over bills and are feeling stress.

“I miss our family and our granddaughter abroad. There is lots of help out there though and there are bright days ahead. Hold firm.”

On Friday, 11 new deaths were reported, bringing the toll in the Republic to 1,592.

Another 115 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 24,506.

One new admission to hospital intensive care was recorded.

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