Ó Murchú Reaction to HIQA Report into Dealgan House

The questions that remain for the families of those who died at Dealgan House Nursing can only be answered by a public inquiry, Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú has said, in response to the HIQA inspection report published about the Dundalk facility.

Reacting to the report, the Louth TD, who has been working with some of the families who lost loved ones during an outbreak at Dealgan House Nursing Home in April and May this year, said he was ‘concerned by a number of the findings’.

He said: ‘I appreciate the thoroughness of the HIQA report, which looked at all aspects of the care provided by Dealgan to the residents. The inspectors, however, found that the provider was not compliant in seven out of 22 regulations, including in areas such as staffing and infection control.

‘This inspection report is just a snapshot of Dealgan House over two days at the end of May.

‘It is an important part of the picture about what happened here, and has to be read alongside all the other information that the families have managed to gather, including Freedom of Information documents from the HSE and HIQA.

‘A small number of the families will meet Health Minister Stephen Donnelly next week to press their case for a public inquiry into what happened in this nursing home.

‘I continue to fully support them in this quest. In light of what is currently happening in nursing homes, and with the very concerning news coming from a nursing home in Galway earlier this week, there is every reason why a focused public inquiry into what happened at Dealgan House would ensure that the much-needed lessons for the wider nursing home and care sectors are learned, and learned quickly’.

Mary Lou Visits Dundalk

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald visited Dundalk to thank groups for their support of communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. She also met with a number of families whose loved ones died at Dealgan House.

The party leader was joined by Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú and met a number of groups at Muirhevna Mór FC before going to the community centre where she heard about insurance and childcare issues.

The Dundalk TD said the meetings had come about because of Deputy McDonald’s ‘determination to not only show leadership in Leinster House in holding the government to account, but also to come to communities to say thank you to them for their outstanding work during the pandemic’.

He said: ‘She also got the opportunity to hear from groups in Dundalk who are affected by State-wide issues such as insurance and healthcare’.

Muirhevna Mór FC were thanked for their work, along with volunteering with other sports clubs, during Covid-19 which ensured vulnerable people in the area were looked after, while Ms McDonald also heard about the work being carried out by Cuidigh Linn.

Muirhevna Mór FC also raised more than €10,000 for charity by hosting a socially-distanced 24 hour run that was attended by Ireland manager, Stephen Kenny, Dundalk FC manager Vinny Perth and players from the League of Ireland side.

The ‘Unite the Parish’ event, which was ruin by Bay FC, Na Piarsaigh and Pearse Óg, raised almost €4,500 for the Maria Gioretti Foundation.

The Sinn Féin leader met with Mandy Fee from Pelican and Muirhevnamor Community Centre manager, Susan O’Neill and heard how the centre had been turned down for public liability insurance before Ms Fee helped to facilitate a policy thanks to her previous work in this area.

Mr Ó Murchú said: ‘Mary Lou heard first-hand how the fiasco that is the insurance industry is affecting the lives of people in communities across the State. I had raised the issue this week in Leinster House and I am following up with Minister Seán Fleming’.

Ms McDonald also heard from Clodagh O’Mahony about the possibility of childcare services, provided to children in disadvantaged areas of Louth, are under threat of closure.

Her final meeting was a private one with some of the families whose loved ones died in Dealgan House during the pandemic. Ms McDonald said she supported their calls for answers about what had happened.

Ó’ Murchú: Minister to Read Report Before Decision on Inquiry

The new health minister Stephen Donnelly will read the report from the nursing homes expert panel, along with the HIQA report into Dealgan House Nursing Home before making a decision about any inquiry, TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has revealed.

The Dundalk TD said he had raised the deaths of 22 people in the nursing home during a Covid-19 outbreak with Minister Donnelly, after he highlighted delays in Dealgan getting negative test results for residents earlier this month.

Mr Ó Murchú used his time during questions to Taoiseach Michéal Martin to point to the recently-released HIQA report about how Covid-19 was handled in nursing homes across the State.

The Sinn Féin deputy told the Dáil: ‘The report lays out in stark terms how nearly 60% of homes inspected following Covid-19 outbreaks were found to have insufficient infection prevention and control measures, which possibly led to greater tragedy.

‘It speaks of deficiencies in governance and management. It also speaks of the unsuitability of some of the units during the pandemic and their need for upgrading. There were many horror stories from families and staff.

‘I have spoken to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, about the testing delays that have become evident in recent days, including at Dealgan House in Dundalk. A few weeks ago, it was able to get Covid-19 test results within five hours.

‘Last week, it took almost 48 hours to get two test results. I am told that prioritised testing facilities that were available to Dealgan House and other nursing homes no longer are. This situation needs to be fixed.

‘Some of the families who lost loved ones at Dealgan House wish to meet the new Minister for Health. Twenty-two people died in the home during a Covid-19 outbreak. The families want to tell the Minister about the need for a public inquiry to ensure that all problems are arrested and the questions of families and management are answered. I would like the Taoiseach to add his voice to this call and ensure there is action to deal with the problems listed in the HIQA report’.

Mr Ó Murchú said Minister Donnelly had told him he would read the report from the nursing homes expert panel, due for release this week, along with the HIQA report into Dealgan House before making a decision about a public inquiry.

Dentist Patients being Failed by System: O’Murchú

The health system is failing dental patients who have medical cards”, Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú has said after it was revealed a Dundalk dental practice texted clients saying they were no longer able to treat them.

The Sinn Féin TD said he had spoken to the dentist who sent the text and it was clear that ‘a major system failure is on the way unless the HSE gets its act together over medical card contracts for dentists’.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “This is a dreadful situation for medical card patients who need treatment from their dentist through the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS). I have spoken to the dentist concerned and I have relayed patients’ worries to them.

“I do not agree with the way that medical card patients were told, wholesale and out of the blue, about the situation, and I have conveyed that to the dental practice, but the dentists were carrying out what they believed was due diligence and telling patients in time so they can find another practice.

“I have been assured that no patient will be left with incomplete, already started treatment.

“However, the harsh reality is that medical card dental patients are going to struggle to find another place to take them on, such is the level of the issue with dentists across the board.

“There is a major issue with PPE provision. Dentists believed they would have a supply of PPE from the HSE on an ongoing basis. This has not transpired and they have to buy it on a practice by practice basis.

“There have been difficulties with the contract since negotiations stalled in 2008 and there is no doubt, in the post-Covid-19 landscape, the system is about to collapse.

“It is only a matter of time, weeks probably, before other dentists follow and inform their medical card patients that they are no longer able to look after them. It’s happening already – a number have already indicated they are withdrawing from the DTSS.

“This crisis has been brewing long before Covid-19 but now, with additional PPE costs and reduced patient flow, due to social distancing and cross infection measures, the medical card patients are being treated at a loss.

“This is not sustainable. The HSE has to immediately engage with the Irish Dental Association over the contract for medical card patients and immediately address the PPE issue. If they don’t, this is only the start of a major crisis.

“In the longer term, there needs to be a far more sustainable method of providing public dental care.”

Deputy Ó Murchú last week submitted a parliamentary question about the issue to the Minister for Health.

New Approach Needed for Forest Fires: Ó Murchú

The recent fires in the Cooley Mountains, and the need for a co-ordinated, multi-agency response to any future incidents, were raised last week in Leinster House by Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.

The Sinn Féin TD was speaking during statements on climate change and he said that the government has to recognise that forest fires, such as those that devastated swathes of the Cooley Mountains earlier this month, were going to be more frequent.

Mr Ó Murchú said consideration needs to be given to a more ambitious afforestation plan, including on State-owned lands, while also offering farmers more imaginative schemes and incentives for growing trees.

But the recent fires, which burned for over a week, ‘highlighted the need for a co-ordinated and planned State response’.

He said: ‘Louth County Council Fire and Rescue Service did incredible work in battling the fires on the Cooley Mountains. They worked so hard, day and night, to control the blaze. There was assistance from the Coillte helicopter, but the Air Corps made the difference on the uplands and brought it under control, eventually ensuring it was put out.

‘It has highlighted the need for a multi-agency, cross-border response to future fires and to that end, I am writing to the government to outline some of the ways this can happen. I have discussed some aspects of this with Cllr. Antóin Watters, Louth County Council, the fire service and others who agree that a forest fire plan needs to be put in place to minimise the damage caused by these incidents.

‘There was huge pressure on Louth’s fire service that week with multiple call-outs to other blazes in Dundalk, which they had to deal with while battling the fires on the mountains.

‘At a local level, there also needs to be better signage at forest parks and mountain walk entrances in order to ensure that people are fully aware of the damage that lighting a barbeque or carelessly discarding a cigarette can do when, because of climate change, there is less rain and the gorse is far drier.

‘This would be in addition to State-wide fire prevention measures, following best practice, and including the creation of firebreaks.’