Wednesday 20 June 2018

Competition watchdog begins examination of private nursing home sector

The Public Accounts Committee and the competition watchdog are to examine records of a secret meeting at which private nursing home operators mooted a boycott of the Fair Deal scheme to boost the fees they are paid by the State.(Stock photo)
The Public Accounts Committee and the competition watchdog are to examine records of a secret meeting at which private nursing home operators mooted a boycott of the Fair Deal scheme to boost the fees they are paid by the State.(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The country’s competition watchdog has started an examination of the private nursing home sector.

It follows recent reports that a meeting was held where some home owners suggested collective action, including a possible boycott of the Fair Deal scheme in protest at the fees they are being paid.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) said today it has started an  examination “of information provided to it in relation to potential anti-competitive conduct in the private nursing home sector.”

A spokesman said that competition law requires businesses to act independently in setting the price of the goods or services that they supply and the conditions under which they supply them.

“Following recent media reports, the CCPC has been monitoring the situation in the private nursing home sector and, in the last few days, information has been provided to the CCPC which raises serious concerns.

“If the CCPC finds sufficient grounds it will proceed to open an investigation to establish whether a breach of competition law has occurred.

“The CCPC welcomes any information or evidence regarding potential anti-competitive behaviour in any sector. As the CCPC is at an early stage of this examination, it cannot provide any further comment. “

The Sunday Independent reported that nursing home operators were warned repeatedly by solicitors at the October 2015 meeting that they risked "dawn raids" and an investigation by the competition authority, if they took collective action to increase their funding.

The records were referred to the watchdog by Fianna Fail TD, Thomas Byrne.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will quiz Nursing Homes Ireland, which represents nursing homes, and the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) about the meeting tomorrow.

Nursing Homes Ireland organised the meeting. The records reflect the scale of frustration in the nursing home sector over the price they are paid for residents under the Fair Deal scheme. Operators say the fees paid by the State under Fair Deal do not cover their costs. The funding arrangements have led to some nursing homes passing on extra charges to residents.

The records suggest that Brian McEnery, chairman of the Hiqa addressed the meeting on the history of the Fair Deal scheme and "spoke of tightening margins and massive staffing issues within the nursing home sector".

Hiqa, which inspects nursing home standards, said that Mr McEnery attended the meeting in his capacity as a partner in the accountancy firm, BDO, adding he was not required to disclose his attendance to Hiqa.

Nursing Homes Ireland said it works closely with members but "remains vigilant to ensure members seek recourse permitted by law".

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