Everyone entering care homes should be tested for Covid-19, a report has recommended.
Care home workers should be tested every day and those moving between homes should be tested before entry to every home, a report by the Stormont Health Committee has also urged.
The report was published on Monday following a committee inquiry into coronavirus in care homes across Northern Ireland.
It heard that about 40% of those who died with coronavirus in Northern Ireland last year were care home residents, according to Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures.
As of October 2020 there were 16,110 registered care home beds across 434 independent homes and 48 that are publicly owned and operated.
MLAs heard from senior health service officials including chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle and chief social worker Sean Holland, as well as care home staff and relatives of residents.
Committee chairman Colm Gildernew said workforce shortages and funding issues brought the wider question of adult social care reform into sharp focus.
“It comes as no surprise that Covid-19 put an extra strain on the care sector’s funding, with additional costs for staffing, cleaning, PPE and support for visiting,” he said.
“We are keen to see processes streamlined and made more flexible, enabling care homes to meet their own particular needs.
“We were also struck by the impact that visiting restrictions had on the physical and mental wellbeing of those living in care homes, the importance of ensuring meaningful contact and the limits of virtual visiting for those with sensory or cognitive impairment.”
Mr Gildernew told the Assembly that 54 recommendations were made.
He described one of the most powerful evidence sessions of the inquiry as hearing from relatives of care home residents.
“They described the traumatic impact of visiting restrictions on the physical and mental wellbeing of their loved ones, the vital importance of ensuring meaningful contact and the limits of technology for those with sensory or cognitive impairment,” he said.
Mr Gildernew said they were very clear risk “had to be managed” but also “balanced against the harm caused by isolation as their loved ones approached the end of their lives”.
The committee recommendations included that, subject to rapid testing becoming available, care home workers should be tested daily and also those moving between homes be tested before entry to any home, as well as at least fortnightly testing for residents.
It also recommended testing for all those entering care homes including visitors, care partners, residents returning from an external appointment, and all professionals.
— to www.irishnews.com