Almost 30 families have initiated wrongful death suits against nursing homes in the aftermath of Covid-19 outbreaks.
Law firm PA Duffy says its clients are suing in relation to their loved ones’ treatment in nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 12 nursing homes are involved in the legal actions to date, with instructions relating to more facilities expected.
The firm is also seeking the establishment of a Commission of Investigation or an alternative form public inquiry into the handling of Covid-19 in long-term care facilities.
In a recent letter to the Health Minister, the firm said: “The scale of the cases we are currently instructed in, and more generally, the scale of the deaths which have occurred in care homes during the pandemic, is truly unprecedented.”
The letter, which runs to 79 pages and sets out the reasons for establishing a full inquiry, says the “plethora of deaths which underpin these truly shocking statistics is demonstrative of a care system which is not for purpose and which has resulted in more deaths on a single event and against a single individual group (the elderly and disabled) in the history of the Irish State”.
Enda McGarrity of PA Duffy told Independent.ie the firm is currently “instructed by 45 families to pursue various legal remedies against nursing homes and the State”.
“We have initiated 27 wrongful death claims, alongside the initiation of coroner’s inquests in each of the cases,” he said.
“We have also initiated 11 ‘general negligence’ cases against a number of facilities.
“Our clients are deeply concerned about the standard of care provided to their loved ones during the pandemic,” he added.
More than half of the almost 5,000 deaths from Covid-19 have been residents in nursing homes.
In January and February this year, there were more than 200 nursing home outbreaks, adding up to more than a third of deaths.
In relation to the letter sent to the health minister, Conal McGarrity – one of the solicitors representing the families – said the Government has a duty under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights not only to protect the right to life of its citizens, but also to investigate the deaths which have occurred.
“The only mechanism to properly discharge this duty is a Commission of Investigation or another suitable form of public inquiry,” he said.
“We have made this case to the Minister for Health.
“The continued failure to address these most serious issues is not acceptable and will be subject to challenge,” he added.
In a joint statement, Care Champions and the Irish Association of Social Workers called for a systemic inquiry into how nursing homes dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“No systemic analysis of safeguarding practice and trends in the sector took place during the pandemic,” said a spokesperson.
“Human rights and safeguarding expertise did not adequately inform the work of the Expert Panel Report or Nphet.
“There was a failure to mandate rights-based visiting with families and access to visiting spaces and a failure to prevent nursing homes from unnecessarily banning window visits for months at a time, showing little regard for the vital protection and support provided by families.
“Residents continue to have unequal access to primary care services comparative to other members of the community, including therapy services and safeguarding social work services.”