Fianna Fáil Mental Health Spokesperson James Browne has written to the Minister for Health to ask that all residential care staff, regardless of whether they are public or private, and regardless of their position, get access to mental health supports.

Deputy Browne said it was obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic was disproportionally affecting nursing homes and residential care facilities in Ireland and that a robust response would be needed to protect the mental wellbeing of staff working in them.

He explained, “While there is a free staff counselling service available to HSE employees, I believe a dedicated COVID-19 counselling service must be established for nursing home and residential care staff.

“To date, more than 200 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other residential sites; representing almost half of all COVID-19 deaths in the country. My thoughts go out to the families and friends of these people, as well as the nursing home staff who looked after them in their final moments.

“Nursing home staff have been to the forefront in tackling this virus, they have been crying out for more support and they are mentally and physically exhausted. Many of them have gotten sick from the virus themselves and have to contend with the worry and guilt of passing it on to their own families. They have had to juggle childcare commitments and looking after their own elderly family members too.

“All the while they go to work each day and are exposed to the raw grief of families losing loved ones without being able to be with them, hold their hand or physically comfort them.

“It’s important that these staff have access mental health supports, whether they be employed by the HSE, an agency or a private nursing home or residential facility.

“I believe a dedicated COVID-19 counselling service must be established for nursing home and residential care staff. It should be run by qualified professionals who have a clinical background who are best placed to understand what these workers are going through and give them the support they need”.