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Fair Deal nursing home scheme to resume on Monday

The health minister says that an increase in the length of nursing home stays needs to be investigated further. The scheme was suspended last month due to a €100m shortfall in funds.

Image: [File phot] Photocall Ireland

ON A DAY when Europe’s statistics office tells us that we’re going to live longer and longer, the Minister for Health as announced that the Fair Deal nursing home scheme will resume accepting suitable applicants from Monday, saying that he’s “acutely aware of the need to plan for an ageing population”.

The scheme was frozen last month by the HSE because €100 million earmarked for it had been diverted to “ancillary services”, meaning that 4,500 people had their applications suspended and no new applications were processed. Minister Reilly said those who had their applications suspended will now be prioritised.

The minister said that there is “something afoot” in the fact that the length of stays in nursing homes had increased from two-and-a-half years to four years, and that this is worthy of further investigation to ensure that the correct assessments are being carried out. He said that people should stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Under Fair Deal everyone is asked to contribute towards their long-term nursing home care according to their means.

Reilly also said that money should not be diverted to “ancillary services” such as the provision of medication, occupational therapy etc. He said the money allocated to the Fair Deal scheme is for accommodation only. He also said that there has been a greater than expected demand for nursing home places and an increase in the cost of those places.

The minister said he was not fully satisfied with the conclusions and findings of the investigation and that he may ask for an external audit into the temporary failure of the scheme.

The minister said that an increase of €20 million in the price of private nursing homes is “not sustainable” and that he will be asking the National Treatment Purchase Fund to renegotiate these price increases. He has also said that the difference in cost between private and public nursing home places must be addressed, with public places costing up to 50 per cent more than private places.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett questioned whether or not the lower cost of private places may have led to scandals like those at Rostrevor House Nursing Home and Leas Cross, indicating that the lower price means a lower standard of care.

Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher quizzed the minister on whether or not everyone has applied will now be approved and suggested that the handling of the situation has been “hamfisted”. He also questioned the need for the suspension of the scheme.

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Emer McLysaght

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