ELDERLY people in need of a nursing home bed are the latest victims of health service cuts, with growing numbers having to pay out up to €1,000 a week for their care.
The Health Service Executive (HSE), which is facing a €500m overrun, is slowing down the release of funding due to people who have qualified for a nursing fee subsidy under the Fair Deal scheme.
It means that older people who have been approved for the subsidy are facing delays of up to three months before getting a public or private nursing home bed.
Many are having to pay the nursing home's weekly charge in the meantime, which can be as high as €1,000 while on the waiting list.
Independent Roscommon TD Denis Naughten said: "In one instance I know of one man who is facing a nursing home bill of €5,000 while he is waiting for the nursing home application to be processed and then placed on a national waiting list."
Mr Naughten said the slowdown in the weekly release of funding was causing financial distress or older people. It can force them to occupy beds in hospitals which are already struggling to cope with emergencies and planned surgeries.
Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch previously told how in February there were 654 people on the national waiting list for a nursing home bed under the scheme, and at that stage the delay was a month.
However, as HSE funds deteriorated the delay has also gotten worse, and it now extends from 10 weeks to three months nationally.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said it allocated funding of €938.7m to support 22,061 in nursing homes this year. In April the scheme had funded 22,380 long term public and private residential nursing home places.
"Currently, the wait time for persons receiving funding approval is 10 weeks," said the spokeswoman.
Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland expressed serious concern at the development, and said his organisation predicted delays this year after it emerged that €23m was taken from the nursing home fund for home care packages and other community supports.
The issue was raised yesterday by representatives of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) from all across the country who met with TDs and senators at the Oireachtas.