Northern Ireland news

Coronavirus: Figures for infections in care homes 'must be released'

Serious concerns have been raised about the level of coronavirus infections in the north's care homes

The level of coronavirus in individual care homes must be published "as a matter of public interest", politicians have said.

Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP said it was unacceptable that figures have not been published and claimed that residents' families were being kept in the dark.

The call came after it was revealed that 95% of residents in one care home in the north have tested positive for coronavirus.

READ MORE: Around 95% of residents in one care home have Covid-19

The BBC's Nolan Show reported this morning that 36 residents out of 38 in the home had received positive tests.

Another home had a 59% infection rate, with 29 of its 49 residents testing positive. And a third home reported half of its 72 residents - 36 people - had Covid-19.

Sinn Féin MLA Colm Gildernew said the figures for infection rates in individual care home must be published.

"Families need to be informed if there is a positive case within a care home of a relative," he said.

"It is a deeply worrying time especially for residents and family members who have not been able to see each other for many weeks.

"I am calling on the Department of Health to provide clarity as to why they have not published detailed data on the spread and impact of COVID-19 within care homes.

"This is clearly a matter of public interest and if the information exists it should be published."

Almost every resident in one care home in the north has been infected with Covid-19

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said the figures revealed this morning were "scandalous". 

"The statistics were shocking but it is completely unacceptable that they were hidden from families of residents and the public," he said.

"When dealing with a crisis like this one, knowledge is power and we must use all the information available to us. This is no time for secrecy."

He said serious questions need to be asked about how the health service as a whole has dealt with coronvirus pandemic in care homes.

"People have the right to know if we used every tool available to us to keep those in care homes, some of the most vulnerable in our society, safe."

He said the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), which is responsible for inspecting health and social care services in Northern Ireland, must urgently come before the health committee.

"Several care homes across the north already required additional support prior to this pandemic, which was largely provided by in person inspections," he said. 

"It is understandable they can’t take place in this context, but RQIA clearly needs to provide a comprehensive alternative."

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