Nursing homes have been in the news a lot lately and for all the wrong reasons. In the fullness of time, the State and wider society will have to come to terms with the terrible toll Covid-19 wreaked on our care homes.
However, despite well-documented failures, nursing homes remain a vital source of care for our most vulnerable citizens.
Access to residential care at a reasonable cost has been a contentious issue for farm families for some time. What farm has the ability to pay €60,000 a year in nursing home fees? Not many, given the recent farm income figures from Teagasc.
Even most dairy farmers - and there's only 16,000 of them - would struggle with an expense of €60,000 per year given that their average income is €65,000.
Yet the exclusion of farmers from the Fair Deal scheme continues, almost two years to the day after the then Minister Jim Daly announced that the Department of Health would amend the eligibility requirements.
The numbers are startling. Even if/when included in the Fair Deal scheme, farm families who have a family member in a nursing home face bills of up to €180,000, as Martin O'Sullivan details on P12.
Nursing homes cost around €1,100 per week. Farm families currently have to stump up the entire cost for a loved one for three years, simply because farmland is considered an asset that can be sold to pay for such bills.
The current system requires that farm families and small business owners must set aside 7.5pc of the value of their land/business annually to fund a place in a nursing home.
Under proposals put forward two years ago, nursing home bills were capped at three years.
However, this is still a sizeable amount of money and could total €180,000.
That nothing has happened over the last two years to address this situation is incredibly disappointing.
And, sadly, there seems to be no urgency from the Department of Health to address this matter.
Covid-19 has justifiably been the priority for the past four months, but what were officials in the Department of Health doing for the previous 20 months?