Cormac McQuinn: 'In parallel world of the health service everything will be fine'
Last September, HSE officials estimated hundreds of extra Fair Deal places would be needed in 2019 to meet the demands of an ageing population.
In the end, funding was put in place for only 91 additional places, over and above the average number of beds used in 2018.
So under the HSE's National Service Plan for 2019 there is planned funding for 23,042 people to be in nursing home care under the Fair Deal scheme at any one time.
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There are now serious questions about this level as the HSE struggles to cope with Ireland's demographic time-bomb of an increasing number of older people.
The number of people in Fair Deal places stood at around 23,252 at the end of May - already above what has been provided for in planned funding.
There has been a warning within the HSE that there will be a budget deficit in the scheme that could reach €30m this year. This was later revised down to €17m, but it is a massive hole in the budget nonetheless.
More importantly, on a human level it has been revealed the number of people waiting for a nursing home place under the scheme jumped 16pc in the space of only three weeks in June, from 729 to 846.
But in the parallel world of the HSE everything will be all right. The HSE did not explain why only 91 extra places have been planned for this year, despite its own report in September saying between 527 and 717 would be needed. Instead it pointed to a €37.5m increase of funding and maintained this will cover increased costs and any additional entrants to the scheme in 2019.
It says it does expect the Fair Deal scheme to have a deficit for 2019 and there will be 23,042 placements supported during the year as per the Service Plan.
That may well be the case, but meeting that target could come at the expense of older people who will be stuck on the waiting list.