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Rising number of family owned nursing homes taken over by large companies

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The ownership of many of the country's private nursing homes has changed, with more now taken over by large-scale companies, it was confirmed yesterday.

The traditional family owned nursing home has given way in recent years to major providers taking over several facilities and appointing their own managers and staff.

The trend has emerged as private nursing homes have come increasingly under spotlight since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the deaths of hundreds of residents from the infection.

Tadhg Daly, of Nursing Homes Ireland, said more than 70pc of the country's private nursing homes continued to be family-owned and most have fewer than 60 beds.

Companies now in the private nursing home market include Mowlam Healthcare, Trinity Care and Silver Stream Healthcare.

An analysis by BDO Corporate Finance in Limerick showed that, between 2000 and 2009, about 800 beds a year were added across the country, with most of these developed through capital allowance partnerships.

"As a result, many investors in the sector were attracted by the opportunity to avail of a tax break, rather than an interest in or understanding of the dynamics of older person care," BDO said.

"However, the removal of this tax break saw investment in the sector dry up as many operators were no longer able to provide investors with the required returns without the benefit of a tax refund. This created a large 'equity gap', with operators capable of sourcing bank finance for development but not capable of attracting the required equity to fully fund a development project."

In recent times, insurance giant Axa has taken a stake in Mowlam Healthcare, the largest nursing home operator in Ireland, for an undisclosed sum. Real state firm Immac bought Beechfield Care for €33m and CareChoice was taken over by investment firm InfraVia for €70m.

BDO's analysis of the Central Statistics Office population forecasts indicates that up to 28,000 beds could be required by 2041, with almost 8,000 of these being needed in Co Dublin alone, the 'Medical Independent' reported.

"Cork is also projected to have a large requirement, exceeding 3,000 beds. Of the remaining counties, seven, located mostly on the west coast, are projected to have a requirement for more than 1,000 additional beds," it said.

"Despite this, the incentives for nursing home development in these seven counties are relatively poor.

"These counties have among the lowest average Fair Deal rates in the country, which makes it extremely difficult for operators in these counties to generate sufficient return to fund a nursing home development, which may cost up to €160,000 per bed.

"If the projected demand in these counties is to be met by the development of new nursing homes, then it would appear likely that the average rates paid to homes in these counties must rise."

Asked to comment, Mr Daly said "care and comfort" were the main priorities for residents and their families.

He said the weekly payment to support residents under the €1bn Fair Deal nursing homes scheme was set by the State and not the provider. HSE homes get a 62pc higher rate.

Irish Independent