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Sheila Healy, 95, who lives at the Beaumont residential centre.

'Where will mum go?' Families panic following Cork nursing home's Fair Deal exit

Sheila Healy is turning 96 next month. Her children don’t know where she will be living come her birthday.

FAMILIES OF RESIDENTS at a Cork nursing home that has ended its Fair Deal contract are calling for the HSE to intervene, as there are fears that other nursing homes are set to exit the scheme. 

The Journal understands that several nursing homes are now considering leaving the Fair Deal scheme (FDS), as there are widespread frustrations with the National Treatment Purchase Fund’s (NTPF) approach to agreeing rates. 

On Monday, CareChoice, a company that runs 14 nursing homes in Ireland and is owned by a French investment fund, announced that Beaumont Residential Care in Cork has officially withdrawn from the FDS, just a few hours after families protested outside of the Tánaiste’s office. 

The families of 56 residents who live at the home under the FDS now have until the end of June to try and find somewhere else, or start paying full private fees. 

WhatsApp Image 2023-05-31 at 18.04.25 Sean and Nina Olden protesting outside of Beaumont on Sunday outside of Micheál Martin's office.

Stuart Murphy, the CEO of CareChoice, said that the decision to pull the home out of the FDS came after months of failed negotiations with the NTPF. 

He claimed that Beaumont is receiving less money per patient from the HSE than other nursing homes in Cork. He further claimed that the home gets €1,085 per resident per week, but each patient costs them €1,270 on average. 

When asked if the NTPF has engaged with CareChoice since Beaumont left the FDS, the Department of Health said that the Minister cannot comment on specific negotiations. 

‘It’s her home now’

Nina Olden’s mother Sheila Healy is turning 96 next month. 

She has lived in Beaumont for the last two years. The other residents have become her friends, and so have the staff. 

“It’s her home now, she loves being there. She tells my brother and I that we should get on a list to go there when we are older too. At her age, moving to another home – if we could even find one – would be dreadful. 

“She is and always has been a fantastic mum. It is very stressful to not know what is going to happen, if she could end up in a public hospital bed, or having to move further away from us,” Nina said. 

 Nina and her family have chosen not to tell Sheila about what is happening at the home. 

“She would be able to understand it, but I don’t think she would be able to cope. I’m afraid of what the stress would do to her. 

“My mum is 96, she is a wheelchair user, and she needs 24/7 care. To make her leave her home would be unthinkably cruel,” she said. 

Nina is sympathetic towards CareChoice, and believes that the company has left the FDS as a last resort. 

“We know that they have asked the NTPF and the HSE to negotiate with them time and time again in the last year and couldn’t even get a meeting. 

“I think that they are not being given enough money under the scheme to maintain the quality of care that they aim for. In the public system homes have a budget of €1,800 per week. Beaumont, from what we have been told, is getting around €700 less than that,” she said. 

“It seems like the NTPF is not doing its job,” she said. 

“The staff are being torn apart by this too. They are so dedicated. I was visiting this week and I saw a nurse in the corridor, giving her patient a hug. It was emotional,” Nina added. 

Sean, Nina’s husband, said that he doesn’t understand why the NTPF and the HSE “won’t pay the proper rate” to Beaumont. 

“It will cost the State more to rehome these 56 people in public care settings. We are not going to let that happen without a fight. We will be protesting at the offices of Simon Coveney and Michael McGrath on Friday,” he said. 

‘The HSE needs to come to the table’

A report published by PwC today revealed that in Ireland 31 nursing homes have closed in the last three years. 

The report found that homes have seen a 36% increase in additional costs since 2017, while getting “marginal increases” in weekly FDS rates. 

PwC said that overall, 33% of the nursing homes they surveyed reported operating at a loss. 

Tadhg Daly, the CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), said that the HSE and the Government now needs to “come to the table” and talk to residential care providers in order to prevent other nursing homes “inevitably”exiting from the FDS. 

“The pricing mechanism being used by the NTPF is broken. 

“There can be slight variations in costs, but not to an extent that would justify the variation in rates we are seeing,” he said. 

Daly said that the consequences of Government and HSE inaction will be “horrific” for residents and their families.

David Cullinane, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for health, said that he is concerned by the rate of nursing home closures, specifically when it comes to smaller, family run homes, and the stress this is causing to residents and their families. 

“It is clear that staffing is one of the key issues here. There is a clear difference between what public and private providers pay healthcare assistants” he said, adding that further funding for private nursing homes should be contingent on a collective pay agreement for their staff. 

Cullinane said that the Government also needs to “protect the taxpayer” when it comes to negotiating with private providers. 

“We need to build public nursing home capacity, but our reliance on the private sector is not going to end anytime soon,” he added. 

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