NURSING home managers in Letterkenny are preparing for the challenges of a second Covid-19 winter, but say they are hopeful no further visiting bans will be rolled out.
It comes as the HSE was forced to close a number of wards to visitors in Letterkenny University Hospital following an outbreak of Covid-19. Last week, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan told an Oireachtas committee that the possibility of future limitations cannot be ruled out. But, Stranorlar-based Dr Denis McCauley, Chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP sub-committee, believes this will be unlikely. He warned, however, people must continue to “behave responsibly”.
Stephen Tabb is the Group General Manager of Eliza Care Group. Larissa Lodge is one nursing home under the group’s umbrella.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Mr Tabb said with infection rates remaining stubbornly high in Donegal, staff have been on guard.
“We are mindful of Donegal’s transmission numbers and the outbreak at the hospital. Donegal is seeing high levels cases and we are keeping an eye on that as winter approaches.
“Our staff are playing a blinder. We haven’t had any outbreaks of Covid-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. Staffing levels have remained the same since our major recruitment drive last August.”
Manager of Hillcrest House Nursing Home, Anne Gallagher said winter months are always a source of concern, which has deepened due to the pandemic.
With the arrival of booster jabs this month, a full complement of staff, 98 per cent of whom are doubly vaccinated, and a rigorous screening programme, Ms Gallagher said she is “as confident as we can be given the circumstances”.
She said: “Booster jabs are to arrive later this month to be administered to staff and residents. We are carrying out a risk assessment with everyone coming through our doors and screening everyone including contractors.
“Residents are screened twice a day and we look at their oxygen saturation levels to check for any changes in presentation. We are always on alert and keep a close eye for changes.”
Visiting at Hillcrest House Nursing Home has been open since June.
“If visitors have signs or symptoms of Covid-19 we urge them to not to visit. People are being very mindful and adhering to precautions.
“Winter is a concern but as long as we stick to protocols in place, such as mask wearing, which we have become so accustomed to, I think we can have a relatively safe winter. We will be following all public health advice to avoid tougher restrictions or any other type of lockdown.”
Latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures reveal one quarter of all Covid-19 related deaths in Donegal took place over the last six months.
Since the crisis began in March 2020, 173 people in Donegal have lost their lives to the virus, while 18, 212 people in the county have been diagnosed with the disease.