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Numbers of Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland care home admissions from hospital not known

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There have been calls for a public inquiry into the Department of Health's response to the pandemic

There have been calls for a public inquiry into the Department of Health's response to the pandemic

Paula Bradshaw

Paula Bradshaw

Robin Swann

Robin Swann

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

There have been calls for a public inquiry into the Department of Health's response to the pandemic

Health officials do not know how many cases of Covid-19 have occurred in care homes after residents were admitted from hospital, it can be revealed.

It also remains unclear whether they are monitoring the number of care home residents who have died with Covid-19 - meaning the true number of care home victims is unknown.

Despite the fact the Department of Health is not monitoring which care homes that have admitted residents from hospital have gone on to experience Covid-19 cases, it is still permitting the controversial practice, even where people are infected with the deadly virus.

Under the latest guidance issued by Health Minister Robin Swann, all new admissions to care homes must be isolated for 14 days, regardless of whether they have tested positive with the virus.

However, while it highlights the new position on care home residents, which is designed to reduce the spread of the virus, it recognises "there may be challenges maintaining the protective measures".

The Department of Health is facing increasing pressure to explain policies that have been in place throughout the pandemic, and has failed to provide basic figures relating to the spread of Covid-19 in care homes in the face of growing calls for an inquiry into the official response.

It is concerning that, even after a warning from the Office of National Statistics, significant data do not seemed to be maintained by the health service Paula Bradshaw, Stormont health committee member

Asked which organisation holds the total number of care home residents who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and the total number of care home residents who have died from Covid-19, a Department of Health spokeswoman said the information is held by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).

An RQIA spokesman said Nisra publishes confirmed figures on care home deaths. However, Nisra only records the number of Covid-19 deaths in care homes - it does not record the number of care home residents who have died in hospitals from Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the RQIA spokesman said it is collecting the number of care home residents diagnosed with Covid-19 but said the figure cannot be released as it is being validated.

In relation to the number of homes that have experienced cases of Covid-19 subsequent to admitting a resident from hospital, the Department of Health said this information is held by the RQIA.

However, the RQIA spokesman said: "The RQIA does not hold this information."

The information black hole comes despite the fact the Department of Health was admonished at the end of April by the Office for Statistics Regulation over a failure to provide full and comprehensive figures relating to the pandemic.

Stormont health committee member Paula Bradshaw said: "It is concerning that, even after a warning from the Office of National Statistics, significant data do not seemed to be maintained by the health service.

"However, the immediate concern is to ensure absolutely the safety of care home residents and staff.

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Paula Bradshaw

Paula Bradshaw

Paula Bradshaw

"Useful steps have been taken, but we still do not know enough about where the virus is to feel absolutely secure that all is being done that can be done. I would repeat my call in the interests of stopping the spread and protecting those vulnerable to the virus, to implement testing of staff in all care homes, regardless of symptoms, without further delay."

On Tuesday, Mr Swann said almost 5,000 (40%) of care home residents in Northern Ireland have been tested for coronavirus, as well as almost 5,000 care home workers.

"We have carried out 64,000 tests for Covid-19 within our own HSC labs and a further 14,000 as part of the national testing programme," he told the Executive's daily press conference yesterday.

Mr Swann also announced that contact tracing was being undertaken for confirmed positive cases of Covid-19.

BBC NI's Nolan Show on Tuesday published figures from care homes in the Belfast Trust that showed that in one, 40 out of 57 people had tested positive for Covis-19. There were 12 Covid-related deaths there.

In another care home, where there were 19 deaths, 29 out of 65 people had tested positive.

Belfast Telegraph