By Eoin Ryan
Residents of HSE nursing homes in Meath are paid on average €923 more through Fair Deal contributions compared to those in private and voluntary nursing homes, according to recent HSE figures.
Meaths two HSE nursing homes received on average 84.5% more than the other 18 nursing homes across the county in January 23, an increase from 77% last year. Meath’s two HSE nursing homes, St. Joseph’s Community Nursing Unit, Trim, and Beaufort House, Navan, cost €2,184 and €1841 respectively for care per resident weekly. HSE homes in Laois, Longford and Westmeath are paid double the fees in comparison to their private and voluntary counterparts. Nationally, HSE reveal HSE nursing homes receive an average 69% more per resident.
A cost of care crisis has led to 20 nursing homes closing down in the past year including Boyne Valley nursing home in Dowth last October. Increased overheads and higher regulatory demands are seen as the reason for these closures, but all of which were smaller nursing homes.
The Alliance group was set up in response to this earlier this year, a support network for smaller nursing homes. They claim NHI cannot represent the interest of smaller homes as well as larger homes, as they are not facing equal risks.
CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) Tadhg Daly said this is discrimination against “nursing home residents and those entrusted in meeting their health and social care needs. It is discriminatory use of public funding and private and voluntary nursing homes are forced to close while HSE nursing homes receive multiples in funding.”
Staff in private sectors are also subject to worse pay in comparison to their public sector counterparts. The starting rate in private nursing homes is €12 per hour, only 70 cents above minimum wage, with the public sector earning €14 per hour at a basic yearly salary of €28,000, according to advertisements from recruiting agencies.
Development of a policy paper regarding nursing homes has been put on hold despite the government stating its commitment to implement measures which will stabilise the sector.
“It is a crisis that has been acknowledged by Government on a long-standing basis, yet repeated promises to bring into effect a response are still outstanding,” Daly said. “It is irresponsible and bitterly disappointing that it has now stalled on implementation of a policy paper to provide the sector with much needed direction. Communities are losing nursing home care services and this will have very detrimental implications and leave health and social care without vital services.”
Some private nursing homes have put supplementary charges on residents according to complaints made to watchdog Hiqa. They say these charges are levied on top of Fair Deal contributions, some being an extra €3,600 a year.
Another complaint said a medical card holder entitled to free GP care, is €160 a month for the nursing home’s contracted doctor. One family had to pay €300 for a sling to attach to a hoist.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said they are “currently reviewing the available evidence and considering various policy options in relation to additional nursing home charges”.
Nursing homes have said Fair Deal covers only the basics and the extra out-of-pocket charges are needed to cover therapies, activities, hairdressing, and other services.
There are concerns, however, that charges are imposed whether residents used the services or not.
“I am conscious that small and voluntary nursing homes are facing challenges at the moment,” Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler said. “In November, I announced the €10m temporary inflation payments scheme to alleviate the pressures faced by nursing homes as a result of increasing energy prices.”
There are currently 22,613 people living in nursing homes receiving support under Fair Deal. The cost of residential care to the State was €1.4bn last year and residents in their contributions paid €350m.