NURSING homes run by the HSE are charging weekly fees of up to €2,139, it emerged yesterday.
However, it remains unclear how much an elderly person who needs to be admitted to one of these homes will have to pay if they have not been approved for a State subsidy under the Fair Deal scheme.
Confusion reigned yesterday after it emerged that the HSE, which has a budget of over €1bn to fund long-stay care this year, said this was only enough to cater for the existing 22,908 patients who were in public and private nursing homes under the scheme.
Under the Fair Deal scheme, nursing-home residents pay 80pc of their income and 5pc of the value of their assets annually for up to three years. The payments can be made either in their lifetimes or deducted from their estates after death.
But the HSE said it had drained its funding for 2011 and all new applicants would have to go on a waiting list.
Asked what would happen if an elderly person needed an emergency admission to a nursing home, a spokesperson for the HSE said they were likely to be admitted to an acute hospital or respite bed. Up to 700 long-stay patients are currently in acute beds.
The average weekly cost of a public nursing-home bed is €1,245, but it can be much higher. The weekly cost of private nursing-home care is €875 but it can be as high as €1,344.
The HSE said yesterday that 11,836 people had so far been cleared for financial support under the Fair Deal scheme and another 4,225 were receiving a subvention or were in a contracted bed. The remaining 6,400 were outside the scheme, paying 80pc of their pensions or allowances.
The HSE said the average weekly support under Fair Deal scheme per resident was €675 a week but a combination of rising demand and costs has led to it having to put a cap on the numbers it can accept for the subsidy.
However, Tadhg Daly of Nursing Homes Ireland said yesterday he estimated at least €200m had been paid by nursing-home residents to the HSE, on top of the €1bn funding.
"The cost drivers are coming from the public rather than the private sector," he said. "Public-home costs are 40pc higher than the private homes. This crisis needs to be addressed quickly -- there is huge anxiety out there." Most elderly people in residential care are in private nursing homes.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said he was notified of the crisis in the middle of last week and was having urgent talks to try to resolve the situation.
He questioned why costs were so much higher for running public nursing homes and was gathering the facts with a view to coming up with a plan of action.