Amanda Torrens – CEO Brindley Healthcare

As I celebrated the arrival of 2020 on New Year’s Eve with friends and family, I was looking forward to what I hoped was going to be a very rewarding year for all at Brindley Healthcare, however the storm clouds of Covid-19 were gathering in the east. As January progressed, we watched this storm closely as it grew and spread further afield, gaining strength as it grew. During this time, we continued as normal delivering the care and service to all of our residents to the highest standard, however, whether by luck, by foresight or as I believe through the abilities of our management team to consider and read circumstance, we tried to get ahead of what was to come to our shores in March. February saw very disturbing and worrying developments closer to home, as numbers of infections increased in Ireland. At this stage our team saw the very stark writing on the wall and we went about sourcing our own supply of PPE – our duty was to our many residents who almost all fell into the high-risk category. We were conscious of the very real and harrowing events coming to attention in Spain and Italy. Our most vulnerable residents had to be protected. The start of March focused our attention completely as figures rose dramatically and daily if not hourly reports were being considered. While a national plan was in situ, we decided to introduce our Brindley Covid-19 preparedness plan. Early planning and preparation were going to become essential in keeping everyone safe. We were not going to allow Covid-19 to visit the same human tragedies that we were seeing elsewhere. While we concentrated on our Resident’s safety, we were also acutely aware of our duty of care and responsibilities to all our hard-working staff. We introduced measures above and beyond those recommended to ensure that they, their families and greater community were protected as best we could. During these times, our staff worked selflessly above any expectations and to this day have done both Brindley and themselves proud. We could not have kept going without their strength of character and their commitment to our residents and each other.

At the start of March everything around us seemed to be in chaos as PPE shortages, staffing shortages and the ever-increasing numbers were evident. Our preparation and foresight were beginning to show that we had done the right thing. At the start of March after considering all that was happening both internationally and domestically and after much deliberation and many sleepless nights, I decided that it was time to batten down the hatches across the group. It was with a heavy heart that I decided to close to all non-essential visitors to our homes.  I knew that this would affect not only our residents’ but their family, friends and our workers greatly. We introduced measures to try and make this easier as we were extremely conscious of the importance of the effects this would have on some of our residents and families. As much as we believe that our homes are our residents’ homes first, the importance of visits from family and friends can never be understated for everyday living. While we were a little bit ahead of most on this, I believe it helped immensely in controlling Covid-19 within out group.

As with all efforts to keep Covid-19 at bay, it was like trying to stop the tide from coming in. While we were successful on the greater part, out of our 10 homes, Covid-19 found a way into 2 despite all of our concerted efforts. At these locations, every possible assistance was given to our teams on site and to our residents and their families. It was with great sadness, however small the number was, that we lost some of our residents to the effects of Covid-19. When a resident passes away in our homes, it is like losing a loved family member, not just to their own family and loved ones but to our staff, who have looked after and cared for them as one of their own, in many cases for years. With Covid-19, we were expected to suspend our typically Irish grieving process, which made it so much harder.

Covid 19 has had profound effects on society as a whole and will continue to do so into the future. We can create better systems of working through these difficult times and an ever-changing landscape in healthcare will present challenges which will have to be overcome but our largest investment will and should be in the support and training of all our staff at every level. We will not be able to control outside factors but with training, preparation and a strong respected team, we will be able to control what happens inside, overcome this pandemic and ride the waves to calmer seas ahead.