Friday 20 April 2018

HSE under pressure to reveal nursing home fees

Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture Credit : Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture Credit : Frank McGrath
Minister for Health: Simon Harris Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Eilish O’Regan

THE weekly fees charged to residents in HSE-run nursing homes have not been published in five years, despite demands for public accountability.

Private nursing homes owners, which must disclose their fees, said they are being put at a disadvantage - while the HSE secrecy was fuelling allegations of price-fixing.

Tadhg Daly of Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private homes, said it is taking legal advice on the lack of clarity around fees. They will be raising the issue with the Comptroller and Auditor General to examine the use of public money.

He said information on two HSE-run nursing homes showed they were charging between €2,340 and € 2,472 a week, a substantial hike of up to 88pc since the last published figures in 2011.

Health Minister Simon Harris recently confirmed  to Fiannna Fail TD Jack Chambers in a parliamentary reply that a value for money review of costs in public nursing homes was underway but the prices were again not disclosed.                                         

But Mr Daly asked: “Are we ever to become aware of what the HSE weekly fees are for their own nursing homes? We are extremely concerned that the HSE and the Department of Health are involved in some anti-competitive practice to disguise public nursing home costs so there can be no transparency or accountability.

“Previously published but dated research provides some indication as to the realities of the cost of nursing home care in HSE nursing homes. The Department of Health’s own review of the Fair Deal Scheme stated the headline price differential in the average cost of care between public and private nursing homes is approximately 58pc.”

He added: “What are the public not being informed of? Is it because if they were published, private and voluntary homes would have a legal case about their unsustainably low level of payments by the State?”

Around three quarters of the nursing home beds in the country are provided by private nursing homes.

The majority of nursing home residents now are in the Fair Deal scheme which subsidises their care.

Others have their care paid for by the State and pay 80pc of their pension.

There are around 22,000 people in nursing homes but this is set to grow as the population ages.

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