Meath West TD Peadar Tóibí has called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ensure the proposed inquiry into the states handling of the Covid crisis includes nursing homes

A massive 27% of Covid deaths were in Nursing Homes. Calling for a full investigation of the Government’s handling of Covid Aontú leader Tóibín told Meath Live, “Shockingly we are talking about the deaths of nearly 3,500 people. These people contracted Covid either in a Nursing Home, a hospital or a Care home.

“Incredibly the people who were most vulnerable were most exposed.  It is phenomenal to think that throughout Covid, the government were restricting people to 2km from their home and preventing people from going to funerals, school or work, when in reality the most dangerous place you could be was in a nursing home or hospital, two locations run or regulated by the state”.

Documents released to me by the National Treatment Purchase Fund show that there was a widescale discharging of patients from hospitals into nursing homes at the start of Covid. Many of these people were discharged into nursing homes without being tested for covid. This had the effect of seeding covid in the place where it could do most damage”.

“Staffing in Nursing Homes was chaotic. Nursing homes at that time were reporting to me that they were being completely abandoned in terms of staffing supports.  In Galway a Nursing Home saw all but two of its staff test positive for Covid-19 during an outbreak where five residents died.  I remember the manager of that centre crying in the media about how the two staff had been left for nearly two days operating the home by themselves. They were told by the HSE that no agency staff were available”.

“I remember another incident where family members of residents were contacted and asked to come in to feed their loved ones due to issues with staffing in the centre. I’m also aware of cases where nursing homes took to Facebook pleading with members of the public that if there was anyone at all who could come in and help them to come forward”.

“Further correspondence released to Aontú under Freedom of Information show that the HSE’s CEO Paul Reid did not respond to Minister Mary Butler for a full month after she wrote to him with concerns about staffing supports. When he did respond he told both Minister Butler and Phelim Quinn of HIQA that there was nothing to worry about and that the HSE would always continue to provide staffing supports to nursing homes. The head of Nursing Home Ireland sought meetings for weeks with the Minister for Health with no luck”.

Deputy Tóibín continued: “During all this time of staff shortages the Department of Health had a data base of 70,000 people who had put their names forward during the “Be On Call for Ireland” recruitment drive. Why were only 600 people recruited? Why weren’t the rest of the volunteers contacted? Why did this database go largely untouched for the duration of the pandemic where access to staff was key?”

“The Government has stated that there will be a “Review” and not an investigation. This is not acceptable. The deaths of 3,500 in institutions run or regulated by the state warrants more than a review. There is no date for this Review. The Taoiseach has stated that the it will happen when Covid is still circulating.  There are no terms of reference to what will be reviewed. The Government has stated that no one will be held to account. None of this is good enough.”

Aontú demands a full Commission of Inquiry into what happened in our hospitals and Nursing Homes. All ready, according to a PQ received by us, 44 families have taken claims against the state to achieve justice for their families. This figure will grow and grow. Are we going to see the state aggressively litigate against these families who had loved ones die in Nursing Homes”?

“Our Bill to do this has passed 1st stage in the Dáil. But we also need to investigate the Governments approach to Covid as a whole. I believe that we need also to examine why was Ireland the most and longest restricted country in the EU. What was the cost in terms of life and health of closing and reducing Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke and Mental Health services?  Why haven’t we as a state caught up with those who missed out on treatment? Why were we the only country in the EU to stop the building of homes. What was the effect of closing schools for so long especially on those children who have special needs? What was the logic of a Covid pass when people who were vaccinated were themselves spreading Covid in public spaces?