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Our elderly deserve security of state care

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State failures in the provision of nursing home care have been well documented

State failures in the provision of nursing home care have been well documented

State failures in the provision of nursing home care have been well documented

FIVE per cent of older Irish people require long-term nursing home care. This group comprises people of advanced age with high levels of disability and frailty.

The news that the 2011 funding for the Fair Deal Nursing Home Scheme has run out in the first half of the year is shocking as the most direct effects will be felt by highly vulnerable people at the point of transition from home or acute hospital to nursing home.

In the short term, Fair Deal co-funding must be restored to spare families any further distress or uncertainty.

Issues related to the provision and financing of nursing home care have been contentious since the 1970 Health Act required the State to provide care. Past failures to meet this obligation have been documented in numerous reports.

The view that obligations under the 1970 act have been superseded by the Fair Deal legislation is not shared by all stakeholders.

At the heart of the matter is the right to care for vulnerable citizens with complex needs. Ireland has ratified the UN covenant that recognises the right to health defined in association with availability, access, acceptability and quality of facilities, goods and services.

But this is not defined in Irish legislation -- a point that has been highlighted by the Irish Human Rights Commission.

The Programme for Government promises a review of the Fair Deal system with a view to developing a secure system of financing community and long-term care for older people. This should begin immediately.

Patricia Conboy

Director, Older and Bolder, Jervis Street, Dublin 1

Irish Independent