Nursing home charges residents €1,000 a month in 'top-up' fees
Fee is levied on elderly who are on the Fair Deal scheme
Nursing home residents are paying "top-up" charges of around €1,000 a month, it emerged.
The weekly €250 additional charge is being levied in Leeson Park Nursing Home, Dublin, on residents who are on the Fair Deal scheme.
The revelation followed investigations by the Irish Independent and 'Sunday Independent' into the scale of charging at nursing homes across the country.
However, the steep charge was strongly defended by the nursing home owner Joe Kenny, of Silver Stream Healthcare, who insisted it was transparent and essential to ensure the quality of life the residents expect in an expensive area of the city.
He insisted this additional charge in the nursing home, which has its own penthouse, covers a range of 17 extras, including activities and other supports, that the Fair Deal scheme fee does not pay for.
He claimed that the Fair Deal fee covers little more than for bed and board.
"Most residents now are high-dependency and they need additional carers. The charge is all very transparent and written down," he added.
He was among a large gathering of private nursing home owners at the annual meeting of Nursing Homes Ireland, in Dublin yesterday.
Mr Kenny told Department of Health secretary general Jim Breslin that he had not "walked in the shoes" of nursing home owners who are under stress.
It comes in the wake of the controversy over top-up charges, which many families insist are leaving residents financially stretched.
Albert Connaughton, who owns Belmont House, in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, and has a €50 additional charge a week, said: "We charge for the service we provide. I believe a nursing home should be like a hotel. For instance, we have an extensive social activities programme.
"Last night was 'happy hour' and residents had a glass of wine or soft drink. There are discussions and day trips.
"Three very nice priests take two buses from Glasnevin six days a week to say Mass for us for €50. They call to residents who cannot make it to Mass.
"The €50-a-week charge to residents is a legitimate charge."
He said he was competing with Leopardstown Park Hospital, a public nursing home with multi-bedded wards which was paid a much higher rate per resident under the Fair Deal scheme.
Private nursing homes are also facing demands for pay increases in line with public service increases. A review of the pricing for private nursing homes under the Fair Deal scheme was due to be completed in June. There is growing frustration that it will not now be ready until early 2018.
Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, said: "Five providers have already closed their doors in the past year. It is now incumbent to address the deficiencies in the Fair Deal pricing."
Health Minister Simon Harris said: "It is very important your work is valued and that it is reflected in a fair price for quality services."
Referring to top-up charges, he said: "Nobody wants to see a scenario where older citizens or families are worried about this matter."
Meanwhile, commenting on the proposed scheme to give older people a statutory right to home help, to remain at home, he said the aim was to provide a greater variety of choice.
The Irish Independent revealed that the scheme, which is due to be in place in two to three years, is likely to involve a means test and co-payment.