Six residents of a Co Kerry nursing home have died after testing positive for Covid-19, the HSE said. It has taken over management of the facility which was found in a state of "chaos".

The Health Service Executive has "very significant concerns" about ten nursing homes across the country, it said.

The Health Information and Quality Authority secured a court order to take control of the Oaklands Nursing Home in Listowel after inspectors found "a centre in chaos".

A judge said it was "a serious risk to life and welfare of persons in the centre".

HSE Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor said she is aware that there have been six deaths of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 within the facility.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, she said the HSE had been "working closely" with Oaklands Nursing Home over the last number of weeks.  

She said the HSE had previously stepped in for a two-week period to take over clinical governance. 

Ms O'Connor said the nursing home is being supported by consultant geriatrician palliative care consultants and staff, and the HSE is now the provider of care to residents.

She said there are 517 nursing homes in the country and there are outbreaks in 51 of those, which is about 8.5% of all nursing homes.  

Ms O'Connor said there are ten facilities in the "red category" which receive "significant support". 

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She said these concerns generally include their capacity to run the facility based on the number of staff that absent related to Covid-19.

Ms O'Connor said there are six hospital sites that are experiencing outbreaks of Covid-19. 

She said these outbreaks have affected 550 staff. 

"In many of those sites, the situation is improving even though the numbers of staff may have gone up, but that is because of the testing and us finding close contacts."  

Oaklands families had concerns

A family relative of a patient at the Oaklands nursing home in Listowel, Co Kerry said he has had a number of concerns over recent months about the management of care at the home.

Speaking to RTÉ News on the basis of anonymity, he asked why the action which resulted in court proceedings yesterday had not happened sooner.

"Why did it take a crisis for the HSE and HIQA to act? That is very disappointing," he said.

Seven inspections had been carried out by HIQA already this year, and concerns had been expressed about specific issues in relation to care there, concerns which were heightened by the Covid crisis.

A number of residents had tested positive and they were mixing unsupervised with other residents. There were no empty rooms brought together for those positive cases, staff were in contact with those patients, and there was poor nutrition supervision.

The relative said their main concern at present is what happens from now on. Families want to be informed by the HSE sooner rather than later about the proper management of the centre from here on in. Families have not been contacted so far, he said.

He said the continuity of care provided by the nurses and carers to his mother there was very good, and asked if ongoing care would still be provided by the existing staff, or would new staff be brought in.

Continuity of care by staff known to residents was a very important issue for families, as the centre had been through a very tough time because of Covid infections.

He felt this whole crisis could have been sorted sooner and managed better. There had been a number of HIQA visits at the centre since last June, and he asked why it had taken so long to address matters.

Meanwhile, the Chief Officer of the HSE's Cork-Kerry community healthcare, Michael Fitzgerald, said today the safety and wellbeing of the 24 residents at the Lakelands facility was their priority.

He said going to court to seek to take over a nursing home by the HSE was a "last resort".

He said most of the residents and a significant number of staff had tested positive for Covid-19.

He said they were putting a care plan in place and the outbreak team of public health are involved there, and a stringent and strict testing regime and oversight is now in place.

He said the HSE's involvement in the operation of Oaklands will be on an interim and temporary basis and they wanted to work to provide stability and continuity for the residents, and will act in the best interests of the welfare of residents at all times.

Distressing time for residents - Reid

Mr Reid said the HSE has deployed additional resources across infection prevention and control measures and hygiene measures to the Oaklands Nursing home in Listowel, Co Kerry.

He said it is a very distressing time for the residents, families and loved ones of those at Oaklands Nursing Home and he sought to reassure them that the HSE is doing all that needs to be done to improve conditions and limit the spread of the illness.

Mr Reid said the HSE is working closely with Nursing Homes Ireland on a daily basis with between five and ten elderly care homes on high alert, where high level intensive resources are deployed to improve the situation.

He said the HSE has had better success recently in nursing homes as a result of serial testing, which gives an early alert about those nursing homes at risk.