New costs could close nursing homes
Private nursing home owners faced with the cost of meeting new quality standards could be forced to close, it was claimed today.
Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) said its members spent more than €35m on upgrading buildings and staffing levels over a six-month period, while commercial, energy and food bills also rose.
Tadhg Daly, NHI chief executive, said 450 voluntary and private nursing homes have forked out an average €77,872 each to meet the standards set by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) last year.
"It will be a number of years before a full picture of the economic impact of the HIQA standards becomes apparent," said Mr Daly.
"However it is a matter of concern in the sector that already a number of nursing homes have indicated that they will be closing as the cost of compliance with the new standards cannot be met by them."
A survey of the 450 homes revealed staff costs were up 10pc since 2007, accounting for 61.5pc of turnover, while spending on food rose by 12pc.
Elsewhere it found 84pc of residents were in the high to medium dependency category and half were aged 85 or over. Almost 38pc were found to have been diagnosed with dementia.
NHI raised concerns over the Government's Fair Deal scheme and differences in public nursing home costs and the price the Health Service Executive (HSE) pays the private and voluntary sector.
Mr Daly said the average fee negotiated by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) in the private nursing home sector is €831 per week, while the public nursing home costs are an average of €1,371.
He accused the state of failing to recognise the true cost of care except in their own nursing homes and called on Health Minister Mary Harney to facilitate round-table discussions involving the NTPF, HSE, HIQA, the Department of Health and Children and NHI.
"What is most worrying here is not that the costs are rising, but that the NTPF, in negotiating rates under the Fair Deal, fail to recognise the increased cost," said Mr Daly.
"In effect, we have a conflict between two arms of the state - HIQA and the NTPF.
"HIQA, rightly, are demanding the highest standards of care and compliance. The NTPF are completely failing to recognise this in their negotiations with the sector.
"Current funding arrangements do not meet the true cost of care and there needs to be a recognition by all stakeholders that quality and high standards cannot be compromised through underfunding."