Watchdog to probe private nursing homes
The Government is to extend the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman to allow it to investigate complaints against private nursing homes.
It comes after concerns were expressed about the lack of independent mechanisms for the investigation of complaints in privately run care homes.
Previously the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, has only been able to examine cases involving care homes run by the Health Service Executive. However, he will now have powers to investigate complaints against privately run homes where the care of residents is subsidised by the State through the Fair Deal scheme.
Even if only one resident in a home is availing of the scheme, the Ombudsman will have the power to examine complaints from other residents.
This means the vast majority of privately run nursing homes will be subject to independent investigation. There are currently around 22,500 people in private nursing home care.
People with complaints will have to first air their concerns with the management of the nursing home. If they are not satisfied, they will then be able to go to the Ombudsman.
Officers from his office will be able to enter privately run premises and seize records relating to a complaint.
They will also be able to interview anyone with information about a complaint.
Mr Tyndall made a submission to the Government seeking the increased powers last year.
He said his office had been unable to investigate a great number of complaints because it lacked the powers to do so.
The move was welcomed by Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who last year highlighted how hundreds of complaints about nursing homes were not being independently investigated.
This was because the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), while having the power to inspect private nursing homes, is not able to investigate individual complaints.
"I very much welcome increased analysis of complaints in relation to private nursing homes. This will mean they can be independently investigated," said Mr O'Dowd.
Nursing homes are obliged to have robust complaints procedures, but complaints to Hiqa showed many people were unhappy with how their concerns were dealt with.