POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Expert group to lead care home investigation



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An expert group will lead an independent inquiry into Luxembourg care home deaths. Photo: Shutterstock 

A team of national and international experts will be charged with analysing the sources of care home coronavirus clusters, assessing the implementation of health protocols and immunity of vaccinated residents. 

Parliament on 1 April backed an independent inquiry into care home deaths after opposition parties called for family minister Corinne Cahen (DP) to resign. The ministry the same day had revealed 328 retirement home residents had died between the outbreak of the pandemic and 21 March 2021 after contracting the coronavirus. They made up 45% of the country’s pandemic death toll.

The director of Luxembourg’s health department, Jean-Claude Schmit, on Monday said the inquiry would delve into analysing the sources of care home clusters and how infections were able to spread. This will take into account evaluation health protocols applied.

With clusters reported even after the vaccination of care home residents--although patients suffered mostly only mild or no symptoms--the team will also analyse the degree of residents’ immunity after the first or second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

The working group will include an external coordinator--to avoid bias--as well as an expert in the field of sequencing from the Laboratoire National de la santé (national health lab), an expert from the Luxembourg Institute of Health, as well as two international experts.

Jeannot Waringo, who also led the 2019/2020 investigation into the functioning of Luxembourg's royal household, confirmed to the Tageblatt that health minister Paulette Lenert has asked him if he would be available to join the team. The former senior civil servant said he has no further details on the role. The final composition of the expert group remains to be confirmed, however. 

The team is expected to file their report roughly eight weeks after starting their work. Enquiries to recruit the international members of the group are already ongoing. The final choice will be made once the scope of the study is finalised.

Opposition members had demanded an external audit of all the safety precautions taken at different care homes. The family ministry had largely left it up to the homes to make their own rules, for example for external visits, depending on the status of infections.

They had also wanted to set up a steering committee including members of parliament to oversee the investigation. Both demands were not upheld by the majority, although Schmit said the regulatory framework at the institutions would be taken into account as part of the analysis.

Updated on 20 April at 9.45am to include Jeannot Waringo's comments to the Tageblatt.