Health Settings in Danger of Coming Apart at the Seams: Ó Murchú

Virus outbreaks at specialist health units in Louth were raised in Leinster House last week by Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú who highlighted Covid-19 outbreaks at St John of God’s Drumcar and at the Crosslanes facility in Drogheda.

During debates on Covid-19 and mental health, the Louth TD said he had been made aware that there had been an outbreak at the St John of God’s facility in Drumcar around October 14. It is a residential campus for adults with disabilities.

The Sinn Féin TD said the outbreak affected three residents and 14 staff, with one of the residents becoming ill with Covid-19. However, on public health advice, all of those at the facility were deemed not be close contacts and were not tested.

It is believed the virus was most likely brought into Drumcar by an asymptomatic staff member. It is understood that a resident passed away as a result of Covid-19 at Drumcar. Mr Ó Murchú said this was a tragedy.

Mr Ó Murchú said: ‘Testing was not happening in this congregated setting and, even following the outbreak in question, full testing was not done.

‘A number of staff did not feel particularly well over two periods. They went to their own doctors to get tested and approximately nine of them had Covid-19. This is something we need to look at’.

The Dundalk TD also said he had been made aware there had been a Covid-19 outbreak at Crosslanes in September or October, which almost brought services to a halt. He raised it during a debate on Covid-19 in Leinster House.

He said: ‘We need to look at all these health settings and at other congregated settings from the point of view of screening. The question is whether the latter is done by using the PCR capacity that exists.

‘We also have to look at the possibility of carrying out rapid antigen tests, possibly alongside PCR testing, which is still seen as the gold standard. This is what we have to do until we get to that almost promised land when we have a vaccine and can move to a more normal life’.

He asked Ministers of State at the Department of Health, Anne Rabbitte and Mary Butler, to examine the outbreaks at the Louth centres, the pertaining public health advice, and he was told by them that would do that.

He said: ‘The public health advice may say people are not close contacts because they are operating certain procedures with masks etc. The fact is that many of our health settings were already under pressure without screening. They will come apart at the seams’.