A nursing home in Roscrea is using rapid antigen testing for all staff and visitors to help safely opening up for families to be reunited.
“An upbeat atmosphere” is being felt by residents and their loved ones at Patterson's Nursing Home, where this week families are meeting in person for the first time in several long months.
From Monday nursing homes are permitted to allow visitors inside the homes twice weekly, but Patterson's opened their doors on Mother’s Day to visitors who agree to use rapid antigen tests first.
Pattersons, through an abundance of care and precautionary measures, prevented the coronavirus from entering the home for the past year. A strict infection-control policy deployed by Manager Sandra Farrell and her team was successful at protecting the home's 25 residents.
They informed the HSE about deploying the state-of-the-art rapid tests, which cost €15 each and work like a pregnancy test – where a saliva swab produces a result in a window after fifteen-minutes.
Visitors make an appointment the day before and on arrival at the home a nurse administers the test and checks the result before they are permitted entry. Each visitor must still wear masks and hand sanitisation and have their temperature checked, as well as completing a Covid-19 symptoms form.
Pattersons are paying for the rapid tests, but its a “cost worth bearing” Ms. Farrell told this newspaper, as the extra layer of screening provides another barrier against infections spreading through knowledge.
Ms. Farrell said deploying a similar system in factories and shops could help the economic recovery begin sooner, if employers bought the rapid antigen tests in bulk and began screening on a mass scale.
She says the government should provide better support to the system and feels the reluctance to embrace rapid antigen testing may stem from their fear of losing control of Covid-19 statistics and how infection numbers are disseminated and published for the public.
“Rapid antigen testing could help with costs in the long-run”, Sandra said.
“We started visits on Mother’s Day because we were ready. I felt they missed last year, the summer, Halloween and Christmas”, as residents sorely missed the excitement of sharing time with their family.
“We focus on having quality time together rather than quantity and there has been an upbeat atmosphere here since people could start meeting again.
“Every visit is on compassionate grounds now for our residents, it’s been nearly a year since they saw their loved ones”, the Manager explained.
Staff also use the antigen tests and she said the HSE should not have reduced testing from once a week to once fortnightly.
“They are very easy to use and although cost might be a factor, the government needs to support us so that families can meet again”, Ms. Farrell said.