All new residents of nursing homes should be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission, a new report has recommended.
It says they should only be admitted to homes that demonstrate their infection control measures are of sufficient standard.
It also recommends that for the next 18 months - or until the WHO declares that the pandemic is over - nursing home staff should be precluded from working across multiple sites, and adequate “single-site employment contracts” should be in place to support this.
They are among the dozens of recommendations in a Nursing Homes Expert Panel report published this afternoon.
The expert panel was set up in May, amid the high number of COVID-19 clusters in nursing homes during the early stages of the pandemic in Ireland.
As of late June, there had been more than 250 coronavirus clusters in nursing homes, while more than half of all deaths in the country were associated with nursing home clusters.
The new report calls for support teams should be established, where a member would be available 24/7 to nursing homes in the event of a COVID-19 surge.
There’s a call for the ‘periodic testing for healthcare workers in nursing homes’ to be continued, while residents should continue to be prioritised for testing.
As part of that recommendation, the experts say it's vital the HSE in general has a 'rapid turnaround' time for all COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
The experts also say the terms and conditions for nursing home staff should be reviewed to ensure there is enough qualified staff in the future.
They also say that infrastructural changes may be needed within individual homes - including visiting rooms that can facilitate visits from friends and family.
Elsewhere, the report reiterates recent calls for a major systematic reform of nursing home care in Ireland.
The authors of the report state: “We have a two-tier healthcare system and a two-tier siloed approach to the long-term support and care of older people which favours referral to long-term care settings as opposed to promoting a wider range of home care options.
“We owe it to our older population and ourselves to do better.”