Bray Councillor Joe Behan says questions remain to be answered about the reasons why so many older people died in nursing homes in this country during the Covid crisis.
These questions arise for us in County Wicklow as much as anywhere else. A total of 17 out of the 46 residents of the HSE run St.Brigid’s Community at Crooksling on the border of West Wicklow lost their lives in the period after they were moved to a new facility in Tallaght.
Cllrs. Gerry O’Neill, Patsy Glennon, Deirdre O’Donovan and I sought answers at the meeting of the Dublin Mid-Leinster Regional Health Forum held in Tullamore on Tuesday 21st July. We were told that a decision was made to move the residents of Crooksling at the end of March based on clinical advice from the Department of Public Health and Consultant Geriatrician. We were told that a Risk Assessment was undertaken and that the move was necessary because of the increased risk of Covid transmission in the existing facility.
While acknowledging that Covid risk was a major factor, I believe that the risks attached to moving older people from a place they knew as home for many years to a new facility posed an equally serious risk. It is not clear whether the dangers in moving these elderly people at such short notice and in the already stressful circumstances of a pandemic were also risk assessed.
As Councillors, we are determined that a full independent enquiry should be held into the circumstances of the deaths of so many people in such a short space of time. We called for such an enquiry at the meeting in Tullamore and it was agreed that the HSE management would meet us to discuss in more detail our concerns and their response to those concerns. However a full independent enquiry is also needed and I call on the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D., to hold such an enquiry.
We also demanded that the HSE drop its plans to sell the St.Brigid’s site on the open market next month. This magnificent site of 42 acres was gifted to the community for care of the elderly by Mr. John James Verschoyle in 1856. It now seems that the HSE , having moved the 49 elderly residents off the land, is now planning to cash in by putting it up for sale to the highest bidder. This is grossly unjust and unfair to the local community and to the memory of the man who donated the land many years ago.
The local community and local councillors led by Cllr. Gerry O’Neill, Cllr. Patsy Glennon and Cllr Deirdre O’Donovan have organised a public meeting (on Saturday 25th July at 3.00 pm) in the grounds of St.Brigid’s. We will be sending out a clear message to the HSE and the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D. that this sale must be stopped and the lands used for the purpose for which they were intended. The sale process must be approved by the HSE Board which reports to Minister Donnelly and we expect that he will use his powers to ensure that the St.Brigid’s land is kept in public ownership and used for the care of the elderly in the community.