Cost of week in public nursing home same as six nights in Ritz
It is the HSE-run nursing room where a week costs the same as six nights at the plush Ritz Hotel in London.
The Abbeyleix Community Unit in Co Laois was on notice to shut down due to funding and staffing issues five years ago - but it got a reprieve after residents and locals took to the streets.
Now it has emerged as having the most expensive accommodation costs in the country with a week's stay estimated at €4,082.
The HSE has published the weekly cost of care in its public nursing homes, which work out at up to four times the weekly subvention it pays to some private nursing homes.
The weekly costs of a nursing home do not affect fees paid by individual residents availing of the State-subsidised Fair Deal scheme.
The fees under the scheme are the same for the resident - regardless of whether they are living in a high or lower cost home - because they are assessed on their individual income and assets.
However, the newly published figures sparked outrage among private nursing home owners who said they are being discriminated against.
Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private homes, said: "It is unacceptable that private and voluntary providers are forced to provide care for fees way below those paid to HSE-run homes."
The highest weekly costs of €1,245 for private nursing homes are in Ryevale nursing home which is located in Leixlip and Kiltipper Woods nursing home in Tallaght, Dublin. Many average around €1,000 although some are as low as €745.
The HSE defended the higher accommodation costs in its homes on a number of grounds, including having higher numbers of nurses on its staff.
There is also the cost of upkeep of old buildings along with a reliance on agency workers.
Health Minister Simon Harris said HSE-run nursing homes are more expensive because they care for residents with most complex needs, such as advanced dementia.
However, Mr Daly said this is not borne out by independent research. The average length of stay in all nursing homes - public, private and voluntary - is 1.9 years.
Mr Daly said: "This is reflective of the high levels of frailty and dependency of persons who avail of nursing home care. The Fair Deal scheme is designed to support people with high and maximum dependency care needs.
"Furthermore, independent research undertaken by the Dementia Services Information and Development Centre highlighted private nursing homes are providing the majority of specialist care for people with dementia."
He said the research found that HSE-run homes "which receive the highest payments for care because they are said to accommodate those with highest dependency needs, were seen to be more restrictive than other providers in relation to admission criteria, and were more inclined to refuse admission to those not independently mobile."
Private nursing homes also said they are seeing some of their badly needed nurses leave to take up work in HSE-run homes.
Nursing Homes Ireland recently wrote to all nurses on the register but are classed as "inactive" to ask them to return to work. It may be an option for nurses who gave up full-time jobs to care for families.