Elderly homes upgrade delayed
Thousands of elderly residents of HSE-run nursing homes will continue to spend their final years in old-fashioned and sub-standard facilities following a Government decision to push out the deadline to have them closed or upgraded to 2021.
News of the delay in meeting the deadline - which was originally set for July this year - was relayed to the patient safety watchdog (Hiqa) last week by Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch, the Irish Independent has learned.
It now threatens to spark legal action against the State from owners of private nursing homes, many of whom had to go into major financial debt to meet the July date in order to avoid losing their licence.
Tadhg Daly, head of Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private homes, confirmed yesterday that it is seeking urgent legal advice about taking a High Court judicial review and he accused the State of "double standards" in the care of defenceless older people.
Hiqa, which inspects the HSE-run homes - some dating from the 19th century - has condemned conditions in several of them. Ms Lynch said €300m was allocated in the Government's capital plan to upgrade the homes but it will take the full six years to complete.
However, in an internal memo to private nursing home owners, Mr Daly warned: "Legal advice has been provided by legal advisors about the possible legal ramifications regarding this move by the State.
"Over a period of months we have been engaging with our legal advisors about a case that could be taken within Irish and European courts regarding State actions within the nursing home sector."
He said: "The board is taking urgent legal advice regarding judicial review proceedings and preparing to make this a political issue for health minister, Government and the Department of Health."
The document states private nursing home owners have been met with "complete inflexibility" in the instructions they received to bring their facilities up to standard by July.
They have come under "considerable and personal pressures to undertake works".
Mr Daly confirmed yesterday the organisation will be mounting a major national campaign to highlight the double standards.
"It raises major issues about political interference with health regulation and inequality of standards," he said.