Reilly 'finds' €62m to pay for nursing home scheme
UP to 4,800 more people can avail of financial subsidies this year under the Fair Deal Nursing Home Scheme when it resumes from next week, Health Minister Dr James Reilly said yesterday.
The minister said €62m had been found to allow it to resume -- but thousands of other elderly nursing-home residents will be paying more to provide €12m of this funding.
He said the charges for long-stay inpatients -- paid by elderly people in public nursing homes who pay the majority of the non-contributory old age pension towards their care -- will go up from €153 a week to €175.
The regulations allow for up to 80pc of the pension to be claimed and it had not been changed since 2008, although pensions had risen.
Another €30m will come from the fund for Information Communications Technology (ICT) which will not be needed this year.
And the other €20m will have to be raised through a re-negotiation of fees charged by private nursing homes, which were due a 4pc increase this year. The National Treatment Purchase Fund will have to go back to the nursing home owners to set the new fees.
Last month, the Health Service Executive (HSE) had to put a freeze on the scheme because its budget of €1bn could only cover those already in nursing-home care.
At that stage it was stated that 4,500 had applied and were waiting for their applications to be processed and approved.
The minister said yesterday that this figure had now been validated and reduced to 2,800. It is expected that this will allow a net increase of 1,700 to avail of the scheme this year.
Around 400 vacancies arise every month due to people dying or leaving nursing homes and this should mean 4,800 new applicants can be accepted.
He said a number of factors are putting pressure on the overall Fair Deal budget for 2011, including an increase in nursing-home costs and an unexpected, and so far unexplained, increase in the average length of stay for nursing-home patients.
"It was 2.5 years in 2009 and has now risen to four years, resulting in higher net demand for nursing-home places," he added.
The scheme was heading for a deficit of €36m this year, even if there were no new people availing of it in the coming months.
He said it was originally estimated that around €100m of the €1bn budget had been diverted to cover ancillary services, such as therapies, drugs and medical services.
However, further examination by the HSE has indicated that only €48m of ancillary costs were billed to the Fair Deal subhead or pot.
The minister said there were significant over-runs in the overall health budget so far this year.
He added: "I have asked the HSE to put in place additional and more rigorous governance and reporting measures.
"My own officials will monitor closely developments over the remainder of the year. I will also consider whether external auditors should be used to help bring greater clarity to the situation in the future."
An wider audit of the Fair Deal scheme is also underway into how applicants clinical need for a nursing home place is assessed.
"Over 95pc of older people do stay at home and remain there. This is only right and proper. No matter how kind and effective an institution is, people almost always prefer the familiarity and independence of their home."