HSE under pressure to reveal nursing home fees
The weekly fees charged to residents in HSE-run nursing homes have not been published in five years, despite demands for public accountability.
Owners of private nursing homes, which must disclose their fees, have said they are being put at a disadvantage and that the HSE's secrecy is fuelling allegations of price-fixing.
Tadhg Daly of Nursing Homes Ireland, which represents private homes, said it was taking legal advice on the lack of clarity around fees.
The association will be raising the issue with the Comptroller and Auditor General in an attempt to examine the use of public money.
Mr Daly said information on two HSE-run nursing homes showed that they were charging between €2,340 and €2,472 a week, a substantial increase of up to 88pc since the last published figures in 2011.
Health Minister Simon Harris recently said that a value-for-money review of costs in public nursing homes was under way. But in a reply to a parliamentary question by Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers, he confirmed that the prices were not disclosed.
Yesterday, 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 that the headline price differential in the average cost of care between public and private nursing homes was approximately 58pc.
"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 the 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 are now in the Fair Deal scheme, which subsidises their care.
Others have their care paid for by the State and the residents then pay 80pc of their pension towards the cost.
There are currently around 22,000 people in nursing homes but this is set to grow as the population ages.