More funds for Fair Deal or hospital overcrowding will worsen - warning
Budgeting for the Fair Deal scheme this year made provision for just a marginal increase in numbers, the industry's representative body has warned.
Nursing Homes Ireland said the HSE Service Plan for 2019 projected an increase of 91 people over the course of 12 months in the Fair Deal.
But the funding of nearly €1bn for the nursing home scheme is already under pressure as nearly 200 more residents required financial support.
The HSE confirmed its target in 2019 was to support 23,042 people availing of Fair Deal and by February the numbers had risen to 23,228.
It comes as farmers demonstrated outside the Department of Health in Dublin, criticising the Government delay in changing the scheme to cap contributions based on working farm assets at three years.
And inside the Dáil, the Government faced questions over the administration of the scheme.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar he knew one case where funding was approved for an elderly person but six weeks later the money still had not materialised.
"It suggests, Taoiseach, that the allocation has already been used up," he said
But the Taoiseach replied that this was not the case: "I can assure you it has not been all used up."
However, Tadhg Daly of Nursing Homes Ireland called on the Government to move quickly to a decision to increase funds for Fair Deal. "Otherwise it will create massive waiting times for Fair Deal which will knock on to hospitals that will not be able to cope with overcrowding," he warned.
The HSE said: "The Fair Deal approval process, once the application form has been fully completed, is currently being maintained at approximately four to five weeks. There is only one waiting list so there are no variances across the country."
Meanwhile, protesting farmers called on Minister for Older People Jim Daly to commit to the promise made last July.
They want him to implement the three-year cap, and save farmers livelihoods from becoming unviable due to the cost of nursing home care.
IFA president Joe Healy said: "The money is running out for farmers in some cases and the fear and the threat of having to sell some or all of their land is causing huge stress."
Mr Daly said: "The HSE has noted that the number of residents in nursing homes whom are supported by the scheme to be ahead of forecast by 0.7pc for the year to date.
"In line with all good governance practices, the Department of Health is engaging in a detailed analysis and validation of this data to understand if specific trends can be identified in a real-time setting."
Responding to farmer demands, he said he was committed to treat farm and small business assets equally and said it is his intention to bring heads of a Bill to Government next month.
"The policy change, to cap contributions based on farm and business assets at three years where a family successor commits to working the productive asset, has been approved by Government."
It is unclear when the legislation will pass but it hope is it will move through the Oireachtas this year.