Statement from the Faculty of Intellectual Disability Psychiatry regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic and People with Intellectual Disability
The Faculty of Intellectual Disability Psychiatry welcomes the recent increased HSE funding and supports to the disability services during these very challenging times.
There are 28,388 people with Intellectual disability in Ireland, the majority (69%) of whom live at home with their parents.
7,530 (26.9%) are in receipt of full-time residential care. Of this group 4,389 (58.3%) are living in community group homes and 2,005 (26.6%) are living in residential centres.
Many have complex medical and psychiatric conditions including respiratory disease, diabetes, obesity, autism and epilepsy. This population are at a greater risk of Covid-19 due to their higher prevalence of comorbid health problems and reduced abilities.
Unlike the nursing home population the majority of this disability group are younger, and more physically active but many don’t fully comprehend social distancing, hand hygiene, self- isolation and the recent massive and unexpected changes in their routine.
This may lead to an escalation of challenging behaviours, including serious aggressive behaviours and other psychiatric problems. This frequently results in increased risks to themselves, and to the frontline healthcare staff working with them. Disability staff have reported an increase in assaults, and other problem behaviours, self -injury and prolonged shouting and screaming episodes.
People with disabilities are entitled under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Ireland ratified in March 2018, to equality and non- discrimination in all areas of their lives, which includes access to the highest standard of healthcare similar to the rest of society.
The rights of people with intellectual disability to assessment and treatment in hospital for Covid-19 infection and /or other medical conditions during this pandemic, whether living in residential or community settings, should be no different to any other Irish citizen. This is consistent with Sláinte Care which advocates the right care in the right place at the right time.
We advocate relentlessly for people with intellectual disabilities particularly at this critical time, and for all the dedicated healthcare workers, nursing, social care, and all other frontline disability staff.
Many disability services have few or no nursing staff, and many have limited access to infection control protocols and procedures.
Disability based healthcare workers are showing huge courage and commitment at this challenging time. They and the service users require strong HSE/Public Health support and guidance now. They require access to rapid testing and results, adequate PPE, infection control expertise and extra staffing.
Consultant Psychiatrists continue to provide psychiatric services to people with intellectual disability using alternative ways of doing so to comply with Covid-19 safeguards and restrictions.
We call on Minister Simon Harris, the Department of Public Health and the HSE to give their immediate urgent and focussed attention to protect the lives of this most vulnerable group.