Notable decrease in Covid-19 cases across mental health facilities
Data gathered by the Mental Health Commission has shown a notable decrease in the total number of suspected and confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the 181 mental health services it has been monitoring across the country.
However, they have expressed concern that some mental health staff were still waiting test results for Covid-19 last week despite the introduction of guidance over a month ago that required all staff to be tested.
The Commission continues to provide the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), the Department of Health and the HSE with a weekly report that includes a summary of their ongoing risk-rating of in-patient mental health centres and 24-hour community residences. Combined, these 181 facilities care for more than 3,900 mental health patients and residents across the country.
“Any significant delays in the receipt of staff test results were escalated to the HSE last week,” said the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission, John Farrelly. “The HSE responded to these escalations and informed us that there are different testing pathways for mass testing and for outbreak testing. We understand that while outbreak testing is prioritised and has a very short turnaround, there may be some delays associated with mass testing.
“However, from our monitoring process last week, 32 out of 181 services reported that they were awaiting one or more staff test results at the time of our call. While the considerable majority of tests have been completed in services, it remains a concern that the guidance requiring all staff to be tested was introduced more than a month ago and it took so long to complete.”
Following concerns raised by the Commission in its last weekly risk-rating report that some services remain confused over which public health guidance document they should be following for the prevention and management of the virus, the HSE have since advised that separate advice was in development for approved centres that take acute admissions.
The Commission has also recommended that standardised guidance be updated to provide certainty for services around different protocols and processes and how they might change as restrictions are lifted. A qualitative question to each service on current processes for new admissions delivered a variety of responses, rather than one consistent approach.
“It is encouraging to note that there were no additional deaths from Covid-19 across services last week, while there was a notable decrease in the total number of suspected and confirmed cases,” said Mr Farrelly. “However, it is critically important that we continue to adhere to all the public health guidance to ensure that we continue to make progress and safeguard staff and residents.”
The Commission provided the following metrics as of Friday, May 22:
· They have now been notified of a total of 17 deaths of residents of mental health services since the commencement of data compilation (there was no increase since the previous week).
· There were 41 services (out of a total of 181) reporting suspected or confirmed cases (compared to 46 the previous week).
· There were 58 suspected or confirmed cases relating to residents (compared to 72 the previous week). 29 of these 58 cases are confirmed (compared to 38 the previous week).
· There were 67 suspected or confirmed cases relating to staff (compared to 129 the previous week). 48 of these 67 cases have been confirmed (compared to 90 the previous week).