Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has come under fire for a "sneaky" cut to State supports for nursing homes struggling to protect residents from the coronavirus.
In one of his first acts as minister, Mr Donnelly extended the Government's multimillion bailout fund for nursing homes for another three months.
The scheme allows nursing homes to draw down funding based on the number of residents in each centre until September. However, while the scheme was extended, the amount that can be claimed was cut by 25pc.
Under the original Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme, nursing homes could claim €800 per month if they had 40 residents, €400 for the next 40, and €200 for each subsequent person staying in their care.
However, under the revised scheme announced by Mr Donnelly on Tuesday, nursing homes can now only claim €600 per month for the first 40 residents, €300 for the next 40, and €150 for each subsequent resident.
The new minister also introduced a €60,000 cap on how much can be claimed.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said the new minister pledged "the sun, moon and the stars" to the health service before his appointment.
"Yet now one of his first acts is to take away from a sector of society that was hit the hardest by Covid," Mr Kelly said.
"The sneaky reduction wasn't even announced, but rather presented as though the status quo was being maintained. He didn't say in the Dáil that he was cutting each of the payments by 25pc."
In the Dáil last week, Mr Donnelly said a "considerable amount of support" had been given to nursing homes in parallel to the scheme.
He said this included personal protective equipment supplies, temporary accommodation for nursing home staff and assistance from the HSE's crisis response teams.
"The extension of the scheme also recognises that these other supports have been deployed as well. The extended scheme, therefore, will operate with some amendments," Mr Donnelly said.
The minister then detailed the new amounts that could be claimed under the revised scheme but did not mention the previous figures.
Similarly, a press release announcing the extension of the scheme did not reference what was previously available to nursing homes or how much was being cut.
Yesterday, Mr Kelly said: "We need to know did the new Cabinet sign off on this when they met on Monday, was the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Green Party leader aware of this first cut, and what reasons did the minister give for slashing payments by a quarter."