By Carmel Hayes
SIX deaths within a week in a Covid outbreak at a Laois nursing home have devastated families, residents, staff and the wider community.
Two more residents sadly passed away at Droimnín Nursing Home in Stradbally at the weekend, bringing to six the number of lives lost since last Monday. All those who died had tested positive for the virus.
Speaking to the Laois Nationalist today, nursing home chief executive Gearóid Brennan sadly confirmed the latest deaths.
He said: “What is hard to convey in all this is how close the staff and residents are. They are like family and it is so traumatic when a resident passes away. As well as working so hard during this virus outbreak, the staff have the heartbreak of seeing the residents they cared for dying in such difficult circumstances.”
Mr Brennan, chief executive of Brookhaven Healthcare group that runs Droimnín and four other residential centres, said there were no transfers to hospital and all deaths occurred in the Stradbally nursing home.
As of this morning, 49 residents have tested positive for Covid at Droimnín, as well as 31 of the 75 staff. The home had 65 residents when the virus outbreak began just before New Year’s Eve.
Fortunately, the vast majority of residents and staff are asymptomatic. Mr Brennan said the situation is expected to improve later this week, as staff who were ‘close contacts’ should be able to return following their 14-day isolation period.
About 25 unaffected staff are living in a separate 31-bed building at the nursing home complex, instead of going home to their families, in a bid to prevent further spread of the virus. Many are also doing voluntary extra shifts, to provide cover for staff who are absent after testing positive.
Mr Brennan said: “Staff are making huge sacrifices and I cannot speak highly enough of them. They have worked so hard all along and it is to their credit that they managed to keep Covid out of the home for almost the whole course of last year.”
The chief executive said Droimnín is managing to cope with the help of frontline staff from other nursing homes in the Brookhaven group, agency staff and a small number of additional nursing and healthcare staff provided by the HSE.
One nurse, two healthcare assistants and a maintenance person were provided by the HSE last week and there has been a small increase in that number since then, including an expert in infection prevention and control.
Mr Brennan thanked the Stradbally community for their incredible support and kindness, not only now but throughout the long months of the pandemic since last March.
He said: “From the start, the people of Stradbally have been a fantastic support to us. They lit candles, held vigils, provided IT devices for residents to stay in touch with their families and often gathered outside the big windows at the front of the nursing home, to lift the spirits of residents throughout a very difficult year. They have been amazing and everyone at Droimnín is so grateful for their support.”