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Ireland's competition watchdog is probing reports of nursing homes ripping off elderly people

Nursing homes are reportedly charging residents extra for routine services like hairdressing.

Image: Shutterstock/Lighthunter

IRELAND’S COMPETITION WATCHDOG is considering launching an investigation into the nursing home sector after reports of potential pricing abuse.

In a statement released today, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) said that it has “serious concerns” about practices in the industry.

“Following recent media reports, the CCPC has been monitoring the situation in the private nursing home sector and, in the last few days, information has been provided to the CCPC which raises serious concerns,” it said.

“If the CCPC finds sufficient grounds it will proceed to open an investigation to establish whether a breach of competition law has occurred.

“The CCPC welcomes any information or evidence regarding potential anti-competitive behaviour in any sector. As the CCPC is at an early stage of this examination, it cannot provide any further comment.”

While the CCPC did not give much detail as to the nature of its examination, it noted that competition law “requires businesses to act independently in setting the price of the goods or services that they supply and the conditions under which they supply them”.

The probe follows widespread media reports looking at the prices of services in Irish nursing homes.

Extra charges

A recent investigation by the Sunday Independent found that many nursing homes are frustrated with the state’s Fair Deal scheme.

Under the initiative, elderly people pay a contribution towards their nursing home care, which is usually 80% of their income, with the state making up the difference.

The Sunday Independent reported that many nursing homes are frustrated with the Fair Deal scheme, as they feel the amount they are paid by the state does not fully cover their costs.

The paper said that at a meeting in 2015, some operators suggested some sort of collective action.

This frustration has led to some nursing homes charging patients for many services on top of what they are already paying for the cost of their care.

For example, many charge residents for hairdressing, therapies or for activities such as arts and crafts.

Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Peter Tyndall recently told the paper that many elderly people are being financially “impoverished” because of the additional charges that they have to pay in private nursing homes.

The charges are in addition to the money that private nursing homes receive from the state under the Fair Deal scheme.

Nursing Homes Ireland released a statement this evening in response to the CCPC’s intentions:

“We note today’s announcement by the Office of the CCPC to initiate an examination of information relating to the operation of the nursing home sector in Ireland.

“We will cooperate fully with the CCPC in this process as required. NHI is confident that it does not have a case to answer in this regard and that the outcome of this preliminary process will arrive at the same conclusion in due course.”

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Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on Fora.ie

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