THE Brothers of Charity faced a “difficult few weeks” in late December to mid-January due to a number of Covid-19 cases spreading among staff and people they support.
The Chief Executive of the Brothers of Charity Services Ireland told Board members in late December that the charity was “facing into a difficult few weeks” as the high rate of transmission in the communities where BOSCI operates, “even with the careful precautions that are being taken” could not prevent some infections.
The correspondence was released to the Waterford News and Star under the Freedom of Information Act and showed that there were a number of Covid-19 cases faced by BOSCI, including some cases in their Waterford operation.
“Having had no confirmed cases of the virus for a number of weeks, we have had 10 cases in the past few days,” Chief Executive Michael Hennessy wrote to board members on December 23.
“Four cases are among people we support and six are among staff,” he said, adding that cases were spread among counties Waterford, Cork and Limerick.
Mr Hennessy said the BOSCI had provided details of their congregated settings to the HSE for the purposes of both whole site staff testing and vaccination, which were both “expected in January”.
“I think we will all breathe a little easier when our vulnerable people supported and staff are vaccinated,” he said.
By January 7, the BOSCI had 227 staff out due to infection or close contact with a confirmed case, and a total of 54 staff throughout their regions who had the virus. These are the numbers for staff across several counties, including Waterford, though the figures were not broken down by county.
There were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the people BOSCI supports in Waterford at that point. There were 16 across Cork and Limerick.
Mr Hennessy told the board members that the main challenges facing the BOSCI included prevention of infection in houses and prevention of spreading within a house when an infection occurs, maintaining staff at sage levels and arranging the earliest possible vaccination of the people BOSCI supports, and staff.
A spokesperson for the BOSCI in the South-East Region told the Waterford News and Star that all of their residents who are over 65 were vaccinated by early January. “This was a very welcome development. We look forward to the vaccine being rolled out to all individuals that we support – both in day and residential services,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson told the Waterford News and Star that it had been “a very difficult time for staff working in services”, however, the spokesperson added: “thanks to their exceptional commitment to ensuring that the individuals we support are kept safe and continued adherence to infection control guidance, the number of cases of Covid-19 in the services has been kept low.”