There has been a continued refusal from health bodies to release details around the geographical locations of Covid-19 cases that have occurred in care homes.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust confirmed at a Trust Board meeting that as of May 6 there were 12 homes across the Western Trust area where there are clusters of either flu-like symptoms of Covid positives but when asked how many of those homes were in the Fermanagh area the a spokeswoman stated that this enquiry should be directed to The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

The Impartial Reporter asked RQIA for a breakdown of Covid-19 cases in Fermanagh but none were available with Malachy Finnegan, communications manager at RQIA stating that “further work is required to validate the data”.

At a Western Trust Board meeting Chief Executive Dr. Anne Kilgallen revealed a number of statistics in relation to Care Homes including the fact that there were 1,579 people in care facilities in the Western Trust, and further 142 beds are vacant.

As of May 6, there were 25 residents symptomatic of Covid-19. Across the homes, 224 residents have been tested, of which 50 were positive. A further 73 are self-isolating. The meeting was told that six staff are currently symptomatic and 198 staff have been tested of which 16 were positive. It was also revealed that there are 12 homes across the Trust in which there are clusters of either flu-like symptoms or Covid positives.

In context, Dr. Kilgallen felt the statistics were: “Relatively small, but this is not intended to suggest we are in any way complacent about the scale of the challenge.”

In relation to a series of questions asked to RQIA, its spokesperson, Mr Finnegan, stated: “On behalf of the Department of Health (DoH), we were recently asked to help coordinate data collection from care home providers – which was previously undertaken by HSC trusts and the PHA - to provide a regional picture on care homes to inform both policy and actions taken across the HSC system in support of these services. While much progress has been made, further work is required to validate the data which is submitted by individual care home providers to ensure its consistency and accuracy.”

In relation to when statistics will be available for the Fermanagh area there is no clear picture or timeline in place. Mr. Finnegan stated that “regional level” figures are expected to be available on the Department of Health’s daily dashboard. Whether that will include figures for Fermanagh or indeed Fermanagh and Omagh Council area is unclear.

“I understand that once work on this data set is complete, aggregated regional level information will be made available on the DoH’s Covid-19 statistical dashboard alongside official statistics on care home outbreaks.”

An outbreak has been classified as a care home where two or more staff or patients have tested positive for Covid-19. At the Trust Board meeting Dr. Kilgallen explained some of the work that was currently being undertaken including a team overseeing community response is meeting every day, with support for all adults requiring care. There are also Covid-specific domiciliary care teams operating in in both Trust and Independent sector providers, as well as multiple community rapid response teams, who act quickly following GP referrals.