Scheme 'delaying transfer of patients into care'
THE transfer of elderly patients in need of full-time care from hospitals to suitable nursing homes is being delayed by up to three months -- even when a bed is available, a leading consultant has warned.
Professor Cillian Twomey, a Cork geriatrician, said the Government's nursing home support scheme, Fair Deal, which involves a medical and financial assessment of a patient needing nursing home care, was causing major difficulties.
"Previously, if I had an older stroke patient in hospital and a suitable public nursing home bed became available, I could transfer them quickly. Now it can take weeks or months before the paperwork for their financial assessment is through," Prof Twomey said.
The patient would be required to pay no more than 80pc of their old-age pension for the public bed, but if they had a house and assets, these were now levied to contribute to the cost of their care, he added.
About 40pc of these patients needing long-term care were so ill they could not even read the application form, which was complex, he said. In those cases, a care representative had to go to court on their behalf and this caused even further delays.
He said he objected to the way the scheme had been structured, as it left people who were prudent and careful about their finances over their lifetime at a disadvantage.
He said he deplored the legislation which allowed hospitals to impose charges of more than €1,300 a week on older people who refused the financial assessment.
Just 5pc of the population needed long-term nursing home care, so they were not a large group and it seemed unfair to target them in this way, Prof Twomey added.
"Isn't it bad enough to be rendered disabled by whatever the event was, without having to go about this additional anguish?" he asked.
The Health Service Executive said the scheme was introduced in October 2009. It is estimated about 8,000 to 9,000 applications have been received.
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