UCD professor chairs newly established Covid-19 nursing home panel

Posted 26 May, 2020

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel.

The establishment of the Panel by the Minister follows from a recent National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommendation.

The panel will examine national and international measures in response to COVID-19, as well as emerging best practice to ensure all COVID-19 response measures are prepared for. This is in light of the expected ongoing COVID-19 risk and impact for nursing homes over the next 6-18 months.

The Panel will report to the Minister by the end of June 2020.

Making the announcement, Minister Harris said "Throughout the response to the pandemic there has been particular focus on the challenges in the nursing home sector and it has been and remains an absolute priority for me in the overall response to COVID-19.

"We must continue to plan appropriately to meet the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 into the foreseeable future. I believe that the establishment of a COVID-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel to examine and advise on these matters is a crucial aspect of good planning to support Ireland’s navigation through the COVID-19 landscape and ensure the best possible safeguards are in place to protect the many people who call nursing homes their home.”

This high-level expert panel will be chaired by Professor Cecily Kelleher, Principal of the UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences. Professor Kelleher will be joined by Professor Cillian Twomey (Retired Geriatrician), Petrina Donnelly, Group Director of Nursing, RCSI Hospital Group, and Bridget Doherty, representing the public interest.

Finally, the Minister stated “I want to sincerely thank the experts for their willingness to undertake this important task and I look forward to working closely with them in the weeks ahead”.

It is expected that the Expert Panel will commence its scoping work early next week.

At its meeting of 14/05/2020, the NPHET recommended the establishment of an expert panel (COVID-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel – examination of measures to 2021) which, through examination of national and international measures to COVID-19 as well as emerging best practice, will make recommendations to the Minister for Health, by the end of June 2020, to ensure all protective COVID-19 response measures are planned for in light of the expected ongoing COVID-19 risk and impact for nursing homes over the next 6-18 month

Terms of Reference

  1. Provide assurance that the national protective public health and other measures adopted to safeguard residents in nursing homes, in light of COVID-19, are appropriate, comprehensive and in line with international guidelines and any lessons learned from Ireland's response to COVID-19 in nursing homes to date
  2. Provide an overview of the international response to COVID-19 in nursing homes utilising a systematic research process
  3. Report to the Minister for Health by end June 2020 in order to provide immediate real-time learnings and recommendations in light of the expected ongoing impact of COVID-19 over the next 12-18 months.

Committee Members

Professor Cecily Kelleher, DMed MD MPH FRCPI FFPHMI MRIA is Principal of the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences at University College Dublin. She is Full Professor of Public Health Medicine & Epidemiology and a Former Dean of Public Health at UCD. Her research interests are in Cardiovascular and Nutrition Epidemiology and Health Promotion. She has been principal investigator of the Health Research Board Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Family study from 2001-present, is Lead Investigator of the Irish component of WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative and was also Lead on the All Ireland Traveller Health Study (2007-2011). She is a former Chair of the statutory bodies, the Women’s Health Council and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. She is currently Chair of the UCD NVRL President’s Advisory Committee and is a member of the Ireland East Hospital Group Board and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital Board.

Professor Cillian Twomey graduated in medicine from UCC in 1970 and worked for 31 years as geriatrician in Cork University and St. Finbarr’s Hospitals, Cork. The position also involved teaching responsibilities to UCC’s medical students, to doctors in postgraduate training as well to nurses and other healthcare professionals. He retired from clinical practice in November 2010.

He is a member and chairman of the Joint HSE-Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) Hospital friendly Hospitals (HfH) Oversight Group (2017 to date). He a member of the Board of SAGE Advocacy clg (2017 to date). Prof Twomey has been involved in a range of other activities including: Chair, Steering Group overseeing a three-year Health Research Board (HRB)-funded project on the application of advance care directives in residential care settings and a member to the Board of the Health Information & Quality Authority (HIQA) 2010-2015.

Ms. Petrina Donnelly, Group Director of Nursing, RCSI Hospital Group

Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery for the Royal College Surgeons Ireland Hospitals Group. Joining the group in February 2020 at the start of the pandemic provided opportunities to introduce new ways of working and to build strong links with the surrounding community and private healthcare facilities. Petrina previously spent two years, as Director of Nursing for a Private Healthcare Group, having responsibility as person in charge in opening and operationalising a new state of the art Residential Care Home. This role included setting up approved processes and procedures meeting National Regulatory Standards whilst ensuring a safe and homely environment welcomed residents and staff. Prior to this role, Petrina spent 18 years in acute services working in many roles progressing to Executive Nurse Management level. Petrina is an Executive member of the Irish Association Directors of Nursing and Midwifery.

Public Representative Bridget Doherty

Brigid worked as a Patient Advocate from 2010 until her retirement, providing direct advocacy support and guidance to individuals who believed they have had an adverse outcome as a result of an experience within the Irish healthcare system.

Brigid is a qualified general nurse and midwife and has worked in healthcare in Ireland and the UK for over 45 years. Her healthcare experience is across hospital, hospice and community settings with significant management experience at various levels throughout her career.

Brigid currently sits on a number of Department of Health and HSE Advisory Committees, National Screening Service Committees as a public representative and is a member of the Board of NOCA.

By: Staff Writers, UCD University Relations