Public nursing home costs are almost double those of private facilities

The cost of nursing home care in HSE-run facilities in Galway is 80% more than their private and voluntary counterparts, according to figures released earlier this month.

Weekly care costs per patient at seven HSE nursing homes across the county averaged out at €1,573, as compared to €876 at 36 private/voluntary outlets across the county.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) – the body representing the private and voluntary operators – have this week hit out at the HSE’s level of payments to their own outlets at a time when the Fair Deal scheme is coming under increased budgetary pressures.

In the Fair Deal scheme, a nursing home resident ‘gives up’ 80% of their income – normally the Old Age Pension (€237 to €247) – while also committing 7.5% of their assets for a three-year period.

This three-year ‘cap’ on the asset charges, however, did not apply to farms or small businesses leading in cases to farms and properties being sold off – under proposed legislation this is due to change over the coming months.

The new legislation – being introduced by Minister of State, Jim Daly – will also give farmers and small businesses a three-year limit on the 7.5% asset charge.

Private and voluntary nursing homes are required to negotiate the fees payable to them under the Fair Deal scheme, with the National Treatment Purchase Fund representing the State.

Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, told the Connacht Tribune this week that the private/voluntary operators were not being paid enough while the HSE operated facilities were costing way too much.

“There is an ongoing price review and we are hoping for some results from this shortly but really there has to be a meeting somewhere in the middle as regards the difference in the costs between the two sectors.

“The ‘80% differential’ in the fees paid to the private and voluntary homes as compared to the HSE facilities in Galway is staggering,” said Mr Daly.

He said that nationally, nursing home costs at HSE operated facilities were ‘coming in’ at 66% more than what the private sector were getting at a time when the Fair Deal budget was under severe pressure.

“There have been reports that older people requiring access to nursing home care will have their funding support delayed as the HSE grapples with the financial pressures.

“Yet across Ireland, it is paying its own nursing homes nearly twice the fees payable to private and voluntary nursing homes that are operating alongside them.

“The HSE continues to utilise the €1 billion Fair Deal budget to increase payments to its nursing homes minus accountability . . . this highlights the glaring discrimination perpetuated by the State in nursing home care,” said Mr Daly.

He said that late last year, the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee expressed strong concerns regarding the value provided by the HSE in its utilisation of the Fair Deal budget, but instead of the issue being addressed, ‘State discrimination in the scheme was growing’.

In Galway’s neighbouring counties of Mayo and Roscommon, the difference in the nursing home weekly charges between HSE and the private/voluntary is almost exactly replicated.

A resident in a HSE nursing home in Mayo costs €1,543 per week as compared to €886 in the private outlets: in Roscommon the HSE cost per week is €1,537 as compared to €865 for the private homes.

Of 36 private/voluntary Galway nursing homes, the weekly costs/charges vary from €800 to €935 The highest nursing home costs across the country for HSE outlets were: Laois (€2,184 per week); Longford (€1,956); Westmeath (€1,806); Meath (€1,755); Monaghan (€1,731) and Offaly (€1,720).

Last week, Galway IFA representatives welcomed the announcement that the Fair Deal changes for farmers and small businesses (the introduction of the three-year asset cap) had reached the Heads of Bill stage and could be enacted into law by the Autumn.

“This Bill is long overdue and will provide a badly needed break for many farm families who are under the most severe financial pressure,” said Teresa Roche, Galway IFA Chair on Farm Family and Social Affairs.