Nursing home charged for advocacy services
The Office of the Ombudsman noted how a nursing home in Cork included a fee for private advocacy services in its mandatory social charge when volunteer organisations provide advice for free.
The practice is noted by the Ombudsman in its landmark decision on the mandatory fee for social activities imposed by Ballincurrig Care Centre, which resulted in an opt-out clause for residents who are unable to take part.
The Ombudsman's decision, published for the first time today, reveals how the son of one elderly couple, who were both resident in the home, raised concerns when the nursing home "doubled" the fee for social charges.
The Sunday Independent has separately learned that the nursing home asked the elderly couple to leave the centre because of their son's "complete breakdown of trust" in the centre, over an unrelated issue. The family concerned cannot be named to protect the identity of the mother, who is a ward of court.
The Ombudsman's decision, dated April 26, endorses the man's complaint as "absolutely valid" and notes that while his parents "will not personally benefit from the outcome of their complaint," other residents in Ballincurrig will..."
The decision outlines how the nursing home doubled the social activity fee from €86.66 each per month to €173.66. The nursing home said the social programme is not covered by the State's Fair Deal scheme, had been running "at a substantial loss", and the increase was based on "financial advice".
The Ombudsman office found residents had "no financial choice" to opt out of activities. It also said the nursing home could have given more information to residents, "especially given that such a large increase was being imposed," the report said.
The Ombudsman's office also noted that "payment for a private advocate was included in the overall social charge". It continued that "advocacy services however can be accessed by residents in a nursing home free of charge, from volunteer organisations, when needed."
The nursing home stood by the inclusion of the cost of an advocate, saying it was "an essential service afforded to all residents".
The nursing home now allows residents who are physically unable to participate in social programmes to pay a nominal fee for activities, the Ombudsman said. The nursing home has also introduced greater consultation on activities and an itemised bill, allowing for more transparency.
The Sunday Independent attempted to contact Ballincurrig Care Centre for comment but emails and calls were not returned.