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Deaths of dementia patients moved to nursing homes to facilitate surge capacity

By Mindo - 21st May 2020

A number of residents at a psychiatry of later life unit in Dublin who were moved to nursing homes to free-up the unit for surge capacity have since died, it has emerged.

Residents at the Sycamore Unit at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, which has a bed capacity of 25, were moved to “nursing homes or another approved centre” in late March.

The unit was closed and used as “extra surge capacity” at the hospital “to ensure the safety of all patients in the hospital” as part of planning for Covid-19 acute care. 

A HSE spokesperson said “none of these deaths are attributed to Covid-19 at this time”. The spokesperson declined to  confirm the number of residents who had passed away.

The Mental Health Commission told the Medical Independent it had received “one notification of a temporary closure of a unit”.

“We were advised that patients were either transferred to nursing homes or another approved centre following clinical assessment for suitability to transfer,” said a Commission spokesperson. 

The unit housed a number of long-stay residents, many of whom were there for over a year, before its closure in March.

When last inspected by the Commission in June 2018, the unit had 21 residents, five of whom were wards of court.

An inspection report at the time noted: “All residents admitted to the Sycamore Unit had moderate or severe dementia, with variably diminished capacity, and were under the care of one multidisciplinary team.”

The HSE’s spokesperson said it undertook a national preparation initiative earlier this year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with a key consideration being surge capacity in the event of existing hospital facilities becoming overwhelmed.

A requirement was identified for extra surge capacity in Connolly Hospital “to ensure the safety of all patients in the hospital”.

“The transfer of patients was co-ordinated and managed by Connolly Hospital’s nursing team and discharge co-ordinator in conjunction with the clinical director, consultant psychiatrist and consultant geriatrician. All patients were clinically assessed for transfer or discharge to appropriate placements, identified to meet their individual needs.

“Sadly, a number of patients who had been in the Sycamore Unit, and transferred in late March to appropriate care settings, have since passed away. None of these deaths are attributed to Covid-19 at this time. Our thoughts are with their families at this most difficult of times.”

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