Friday 16 November 2018

Hiqa chair denies Fair Deal meeting was 'conflict of interest'

Brian McEnery
Brian McEnery
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The chairman of the country's patient safety watchdog told private nursing home owners at a "secret meeting" that they should appeal the fees they were offered by the State to care for Fair Deal residents and the scheme "lacked sophistication".

Brian McEnery said he told the nursing home owners the "blatant inconsistencies" in the way they were paid should be removed.

Mr McEnery recalled his address to the nursing home owners in October 2015 when he appeared before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

He was asked to appear following media reports that he attended the meeting of nursing home owners where a boycott of the Fair Deal scheme was discussed because of their dissatisfaction with their fees.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday quizzed him on whether his attendance at the private nursing homes meeting represented a conflict of interest in his role as chairman of Hiqa which inspects nursing home standards.

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry said he believed he should step down from the post of chairman for the sake of Hiqa. However, Mr McEnery said there was no conflict of interest involved.

He was invited to the meeting of nursing home owners by Nursing Homes Ireland, their representative body. He was there as a financial expert with BDO accountants and not as chairman of Hiqa.

"I was there as a financial expert and spoke about financial matters," he added. He was not part of any discussion on any proposed boycott of the scheme.

"The way Hiqa is legally constituted means that I, as chairperson, cannot and do not and would not intervene or even have information relating to Hiqa inspections. I have, on one occasion, been asked to personally intervene by a nursing home operator who sought that a Hiqa report would not be published on the website. I refused to intervene."

He had made it clear to Hiqa from the beginning that he was a financial advisor to the healthcare sector and in particular to nursing home operators.

"This comprises a significant portion of the professional work which I do, and I have never tried to hide or deny that."

He said he told the private nursing home owners that the National Treatment Purchase Fund acknowledged that the costs to the sector were increasing. He added that the BDO website states clearly that he negotiates rates for nursing homes.

Irish Independent

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