Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Health Protection service “playing key role in Care Homes”

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Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Health protection advice and support is continuing to play a key role in tackling COVID-19 in Care Homes Northern Ireland.


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Speaking to Newry Times, Professor Hugo van Woerden, Director of Public Health at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said, “The PHA has long-established, well-trusted and robust systems in place to monitor infectious diseases and provide direct advice and support to manage outbreaks and limit onward spread.

“These arrangements are being actively implemented in tackling coronavirus.

“An important example of this is the work we are doing with the Independent Sector Nursing and Residential care homes.



“While a lot of this work goes on behind the scenes, the public should be reassured that we have well-established links with these facilities. 

“Whenever we have evidence of COVID19, or respiratory illness, in a home we work intensively to limit spread.

He continued, “When the PHA receives a notification of an issue of acute respiratory infection in a care home the agency’s health protection team investigates and supports the provider in managing the outbreak.

“A comprehensive risk assessment is completed of the incident, which includes an assessment of each individual resident and the environment, and an ongoing assessment of the severity, spread and context of the incident.



“Advice specific to COVID-19 is given regarding isolation, containment, and infection prevention and control practice, including cleaning, testing information, how to manage symptoms, when to request additional medical advice, and PPE.

“When a nursing or residential care home outbreak is over, a thorough clean of the facility is advised.

“The PHA’s health protection team will support the facility through this process, and following this, a final outbreak summary report is produced.

“I know there is an understandable concern in the community about care homes in particular, but throughout this process we are working very closely with care facilities and providing the practical advice and support to deal with emerging issues locally.



“We have seen an increase in the prevalence of COVID-19 in care facilities, and anticipate that this will continue.

“We do expect there will be further outbreaks of COVID19 in the coming weeks and months. 

“The HSC wide system works closely with all partners to reduce the risk of further transmission of the virus.

“The work we are undertaking with care homes is what we do with a range of infectious diseases week-in, week-out, and the same processes are being followed to deal with coronavirus.

“It can often be difficult to identify the symptoms of COVID-19 in some older people. We are therefore testing more individuals in care homes. 

“When COVID-19 is identified in a facility, all symptomatic residents and staff are now tested, and work continues on how this can be extended further as testing capacity in Northern Ireland increases.”

Another key role of the PHA is to undertake surveillance of the situation on an ongoing basis.



Professor Hugo van Woerden added, “A range of methods are in place to monitor the course of COVID-19 in case homes and the wider community. The data collated by the PHA is used to monitor the situation as closely as we can.”


Keep up to date with all the latest Northern Ireland Coronavirus / Covid-19 news HERE



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