By Ellen O’Riordan
A nursing home in the Roscommon-Galway region has been left in a state of ‘absolute emergency’ after the majority of staff and 26 of the 28 residents tested positive for coronavirus.
Nightingale Nursing Home in Lowville, Ahascragh, Ballinasloe, has been left with just one nurse, one care assistant, a chef, and a food server after all other staff members tested positive for coronavirus, according to the director of nursing there.
Patricia MacGabhann, who herself has tested positive for Covid-19, said she has begged for help from the HSE but the remaining two nursing staff have been left on their own today.
The entire nursing home was tested on Monday and all but two residents were found to be positive for the virus when the results came back on Tuesday night. All but four staff members were also found to have coronavirus.
Ms MacGabhann said the HSE did provide a night nurse and a carer last night and had promised to send two carers to assist today (Thursday) but when the sole nurse who tested negative for the virus turned up for work she was left alone with the care assistant.
“That was going to dig us out of a hole but nobody showed up. Those two girls down there are just running on adrenaline,” Ms MacGabhann told the Roscommon Herald.
“I have no solid symptoms, I am not sick. I would go down there to help except I am not allowed to,” she added.
“I just cannot understand. Our residents- yes they are in a private nursing home, but they are citizens of this country and the State has an obligation to look after them. They (the HSE) are not giving us the help. They kept batting it back to us saying: ‘Go and find agency staff.’ But we cannot get any,” she said.
A tearful Ms MacGabhann said that if more help is not sent in soon the nursing home will have no choice but to admit the residents into hospital.
“We kept it out for so long, but this just happened. It is a virus. And when it did happen we got no help. Nobody cares- that is how we feel,” she said.
She said some of the residents have been at the centre for 10 years.
“These people are all in our nursing home for a reason. They need nursing care and we cannot provide it now,” she said.
“I really thought that services work together for the good of the people. This feels like because we are private we have to fend for ourselves,” she said.
Ballygar GP Martin Daly said the nursing home is in a state of “absolute emergency”.
“As a GP I have patients there and I view it as an absolute emergency,” he told the Roscommon Herald.
“This nursing home needs to be supported with a team of carers. If this one nurse becomes ill we will have to admit all these patients to a another hospital,” Mr Daly said.
“It is absolutely dreadful… I am completely and utterly taken aback that a nursing home providing care to vulnerable elderly people with multiple comorbidities has been unable to secure emergency help from the HSE,” he added.
After the story was raised in the Dáil and through the media, the HSE responded a query from the Herald. It said it is currently providing supports to a nursing home in east Galway, a spokeswoman for the organisation confirmed top the Herald in the afternoon.
She said the situation emerged on Sunday, October 18th, and Public Health in Community Healthcare West, organised testing of all residents and staff the following day.
The HSE Infection Prevention and Control Nurse also attended the nursing home on Monday and provided “support and education for management and staff”, the HSE statement continues.
“The HSE is supporting the nursing home and is working to source staff. Additional supports include the provision of staff from Roscommon University Hospital. Community Healthcare West and Saolta University Hospital Group and staff are supporting the Nursing Home in the delivery of a safe and secure service,” it goes on.
The spokeswoman said the HSE is also conducting daily outbreak teleconferences with the Nursing Home.