Ó Murchú:Dealgan House were ‘Overwhelmed’

In response to the new information contained in Freedom of Information documents from the HSE, Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú said it was clear “that Dealgan House Nursing Home was absolutely overwhelmed and residents were suffering.”

The Sinn Féin representative said the release of information from the HSE was “by far the most detailed information received by families of those who died in Dealgan” about what was happening inside the nursing home before it was taken over by the RCSI Hospital Group.

Deputy Ó Murchú described the information as “deeply sad and distressing for families to read”, but said it “can only strengthen the already widespread calls for a public inquiry.”

He said: “This information is released thanks to the persistence of family members who are tenacious and courageous in their efforts to get to the truth.

“It comes at a time when there are hundreds of new cases of Covid-19 in the community across the island and already, further outbreaks in nursing homes in the State.

“The Freedom of Information release shows how health authorities, at high levels, were aware of what was happening in Dealgan House and were struggling to respond.

“No matter what else happens from now on, the HSE, HIQA and the Department of Health have to learn, and learn fast, from what happened at places like Dealgan House to ensure that no other family of a nursing home resident goes through what the Dundalk families went through and are still enduring.

“We have been with them from the start of this process and we are determined to see their wish for a public inquiry fulfilled. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and his predecessor, Simon Harris, have said the Dealgan families need answers to their questions.

“This latest release of information lays bare not only the scandalous and horrifying situation at Dealgan House at the beginning of April but also the State response to it.

“Now, more than ever, the government needs to step up and give them what the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response last week recommended – a public inquiry into what happened in nursing homes and the State response.”

Munster calls on Minister to ensure no school lose a teacher

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has called on the Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, to ensure no primary school should lose a teacher ahead of the planned reopening of schools at the end of the month, given the enormous challenges facing schools as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Deputy Munster raised the issue after concerns were raised in recent weeks that several schools in Louth would be losing teachers as a result of changes in enrolment numbers for the coming  academic year.

Deputy Munster said:

“I have received correspondence from parents at St. Patrick’s National School, Harestown, Monasterboice and the  Rampark National School in Jenkinstown, Dundalk  who are very concerned that their schools are due to lose teaching positions ahead of the new school term.

“In St Patrick’s NS in Harestown one teaching position will be lost, which will result in mixed level classes of up to 31 children. Parents have said that this will make physical distancing impossible. This teaching post must be reinstated.

“In Rampark NS, two teaching positions have been lost since last September. The school is six pupils short of retaining both teaching positions. This has left the school in a position where the pupil to teacher ratio in classrooms from first class up to sixth class is 32:1

“Both of these schools will now be operating well above the recommended pupil to teacher ratio of 26:1. This is too high in normal circumstances, but it is completely unacceptable in the midst of a pandemic where physical distancing is central to ensuring the safety of children and staff.

“I raised the situation at Harestown with Minister Foley, and received a response from her office outlining why the school was not eligible to retain its existing staff. It is clear from the response that the department is not taking the additional challenges caused by the current crisis into account in its decision making on staff allocations.

“The views expressed in the response I received from her office do not correlate with statements made by the Minister on this very matter prior to her appointment as Minister for Education. On June 8th in the Dáil then-Deputy Foley highlighted the need for a safe environment for our children, and said ‘under the current guidelines we need more, not fewer teachers. I am calling on the Minister and the Department to include additional places for teachers to reflect the current circumstances.’

“I would suggest that the Minister revert to her previous position on this matter and introduce a freeze on staffing levels this year in all primary schools. The positions due to be lost in St Patrick’s NS and Rampark NS must be reinstated immediately to give both schools every opportunity to reopen safely at the end of the month. This is a matter of public safety and the issue must be rectified immediately.

 

Munster: SUSI Grant Eligibility Criteria must be clarified in light of Covid-19

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster has said that the Minister for Education needs to clarify the eligibility criteria for SUSI grant applications for those whose incomes have been affected as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Deputy Munster made her remarks as the SUSI grant application process opens this week..

Deputy Munster said:

“Hundreds of thousands of workers have had their incomes reduced through no fault of their own as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

“While we hope that the impact of this will be short lived for these workers and families, it is clear that many will struggle with the financial burden of sending children to third-level in a few short months.

“However, it appears that the Department of Education has made no provision for these families as the SUSI grant application process opens up and it appears that the Department will make a determination on grant applications based on incomes earned in 2019; ignoring the new reality for thousands of families.

“The SUSI application process only allows for a change of circumstances to be taken into account where the change is ‘permanent, or for the foreseeable future’.

“I am calling on the Minister to clarify what arrangements are in place to support students from families that have seen a significant drop in income to meet the costs of third-level education for the new academic year.

“It is clear that the criteria applied in previous years is not fit for purpose and the Minister must take account of these realities to ensure that those who require financial support can access it. I have written to the Minister to see how he intends to address this issue.