HSE excuse for keeping care fees is 'nonsense'
THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has refused to refund thousands of euro in illegal care home charges, despite being urged to do so by a watchdog.
Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly described as "nonsense" reasons given by the HSE for refusing to abide by the findings of an investigation conducted by her office.
Her probe looked at 17 complaints relating to the Health Repayment Scheme, which was set up in 2006 to repay medical card holders who were charged illegally for long-stay hospital care.
The scheme was set up to refund people whose pensions and allowances were docked to cover fees, even though there was no legislation to back up the practice. Some €500m has been paid out to date.
The most recent complaints investigated by the Ombudsman mainly related to privately run charities providing services for the HSE, such as sheltered and community housing and hostels.
In 16 of the cases, Ms O'Reilly recommended that refunds be issued.
However, she told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight that the HSE had rejected her recommendations, claiming she did not have the jurisdiction to make them.
Fintan Butler, a senior investigator at the office of the Ombudsman, told the committee that the HSE's argument hinged on a technicality, which had already been resolved in the mid-1980s.