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'Somebody needs to shout stop': HSE nursing homes cost a lot more to run than private ones

New figures show a significant discrepancy in the weekly costs of providing long-term residential care for elderly people.

Image: Shutterstock/Tyler Olson

THERE HAVE BEEN calls for an investigation into the running of nursing homes in Ireland after new figures showed a significant cost difference between private and public providers.

Figures released by the HSE show a significant discrepancy in the weekly costs of providing long-term residential care for elderly people.

The figures list the weekly costs per person at state, private and voluntary-run nursing homes in Ireland under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS – also known as Fair Deal).

This is the scheme of financial support for people who need long-term residential care when they get old.

The figures show that costs of public nursing homes (ie, state-owned and run by the HSE) are significantly higher than the costs of either private or voluntary care providers.

The highest is at St Vincent’s Care Centre in Westmeath, which has a weekly cost of €2,399 per resident. This is up to three times as much as the amount payable in some public nursing homes.

Taking all the individual centres into account, the average fee payable in HSE nursing homes is nationally 60% above that of private or voluntary nursing homes.

This figure has grown from 53% when the costs were last published by the HSE in October 2016.

Calls for investigation

On the back of these numbers, the representative body Nursing Homes Ireland has called for a full investigation by the Dáil Public Accounts Committee.

“Somebody needs to shout stop and question how public funds are being utilised within State nursing homes,” said Tadhg Daly, CEO of NHI.

We are calling upon the Public Accounts Committee to fulfil its previous commitment to examine the cost of care within HSE nursing homes and seek to provide some transparency and answers to very serious questions with regard to this element of public spending.

 

Daly said that the Fair Deal scheme accounts for €1 billion of the current health spend and that more accountability was needed.

The costs listed for nursing homes are the amount needed for the care of each person, but not what the person pays. That cost is determined by a financial assessment to see what they are able to pay, with the state making up the balance.

The cost to the person receiving care is the same whether they are staying in a private, voluntary or state-run facility.

HSE response

In a statement, the HSE acknowledged that there was a discrepancy between the running costs at different facilities and put it down to a number of factors.

One reason was the need to reduce the number of beds allowed at different centres to bring them in line with Hiqa standards.

It also said that the current layout of many centres affected staffing levels, and that the area of some centres in rural areas that were not viable for private operators made them more costly.

It also said it had higher ratios of nursing staff to patients and that many centres had to rely on agency staffing due to a recruitment moratorium that was in place for a number of years.

Read: Elderly residents were physically restrained by staff at Raheny nursing home

Read: Rusty tables, foul smells and no privacy: Nursing home ordered to improve after concerning inspection

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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