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Dublin: 8 °C Thursday 19 September, 2019
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"Nightmare situation" as Fair Deal applications suspended

The Fair Deal nursing home scheme has already run out of funding for this year and can’t accommodate any new people who need financial assistant to cover the costs of that care.

Image: Photocall/Leon Farrell

AGE ACTION HAS described as a “nightmare situation” news that funding allocated for this year to the Fair Deal nursing home scheme has already run out.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed it is taking new applications but these would only be accepted to the scheme if more money becomes available.

The scheme was introduced by then Minister for Health Mary Harney in 2009. When it was announced Minister Harney said Fair Deal would make “residential nursing home care for older people accessible, affordable, anxiety-free“.

Under Fair Deal everyone is asked to contribute towards their long-term nursing home care according to their means. As such it was designed to alleviate stress on people who may have felt pressured to sell their homes to pay for nursing home care. Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said:

Those who are deemed to be in medical need of a nursing home bed, having been assessed under the Fair Deal scheme, are now left with the choice of paying the full cost of a bed in a private or public nursing home, or taking their place on a waiting list until somebody currently occupying a nursing home bed under the scheme vacates that bed or dies.

Since it began over 20,000 people have applied for the scheme and more than 16,000 of these were approved for funding.  In a statement, the HSE says that €1.011 billion is allocated in its Service Plan to fund all long-term residential care in 2011.  It says “a number of factors” including an an increase in demand and a rise in the cost of private nursing home care has led to the scheme been suspended.

The HSE says it is working closely with the Department of Health to explore options to meet the increased demand within the financial constraints.

Age Action says its information line has been busy all day with people calling with concerns. The charity says that some people who were due to go into nursing homes in the next few days have been told by those facilities that is on hold until the situation is clarified.

Timmins said that when it was introduced, the Government said the Fair Deal would put people’s minds at rest, knowing that if they needed a nursing home bed they would be able to afford one. ”The current funding situation will cause untold stress for those left waiting for their applications to be approved”, he said.

The charity says the problem is not just an issue affecting older members of the community.  Timmins says there will be a knock-on effect on the public health system with demand for beds.  If there are no nursing home beds to take people who need them then those people will remain in the hospitals, he said.

Temporary funding needs to be provided by Minister for Health James Reilly, according to Timmins, while the review goes on. He believes the situation can’t be allowed to continue for more than a few days as it is a serious public health issue.

We never thought it was fair for anyone, Timmins added, except it treated all sick older people unfairly.

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