Nursing homes have to be upfront on all fees - Harris
Legislation to force private nursing home owners to be more transparent about top-up fees for Fair Deal residents may be introduced if the owners don't act voluntarily, Health Minister Simon Harris has warned.
He said all nursing home residents and their families should be quoted the full breakdown of fees for therapies, social activities and other services before entering a nursing home, and the fees need to be set out clearly in the contracts people have to sign.
He was speaking in the wake of a report by Age Action which found residents are being charged up to €100 a week, in some cases for social activity services they cannot use.
Some have been asked to pay a "doctor's fee" even though they have a medical card.
Mr Harris said: "It is quite upsetting that someone be charged for a service they did not receive." And it is "utterly unacceptable" anyone be asked to make a contribution for a doctor's service when they have a medical card, he stressed.
"It's very clear what the Fair Deal covers and what it does not. The issue is one of transparency."
He urged anyone with problems relating to these charges to bring their grievances to the ombudsman.
A review of the Fair Deal scheme is underway but it will not be finished until the end of the year.
But it will include an examination of what services are not currently covered and whether some of these should be included in the State-subsidised package for residents. The minister pointed out that Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private nursing homes, has agreed on the need for transparency around the charges.
Tadhg Daly, of Nursing Homes Ireland, said there was a clear lack of certain services, not covered by Fair Deal, for private nursing home residents.
A review of payments to nursing homes under the Fair Deal scheme needs to be urgently finalised, he added.
There are 4,725 residents in HSE-run nursing homes.
They are not charged any top-up fees.
Services such as chiropody, physiotherapy and incontinence wear are paid for by the HSE.