Independent healthcare providers in Northern Ireland have said they are "seriously worried" about a lack of personal protection equipment for staff.
Appearing before the Stormont Health Committee yesterday morning was Pauline Shepherd of Independent Health and Care Providers (IHCP), which represents private, voluntary, charitable and church-affiliated providers of health and social care.
Ms Shepherd said the independent sector provides almost 15,000 care home beds and 70% of the domiciliary care services here.
She said she was "seriously worried" about a lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) for staff.
"Even normal infection control equipment is running short," she said.
"Just this morning I was advised that a care home provider in the Southern Trust is refusing to take any more admissions until they receive the proper PPE."
She said IHCP had not been involved in the preparations for a surge in staffing.
She added that "never have so few been so ill-equipped to deal with so much".
Agnes Lunny is chief executive of Positive Futures, which supports people with learning disabilities and brain injuries.
She said she was deeply saddened to hear that the first coronavirus patient had now died in Northern Ireland.
"We can't walk out on people," she said. "So if people get the virus, what is the advice to our staff?
"Do staff continue to come in to work, not at a social distance, but absolutely hands on?"
She said issues over PPE supplies were "absolutely critical" and questioned why Government assurances they had stockpiled equipment were not being seen on the ground.