Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has held an emergency meeting calling on An Taoiseach Micheál Martin to intervene to avert the emergency presenting for nursing home care. The organisation said it is bitterly disappointed with a funding package announced to tackle increased costs.
The national representative body for the private and voluntary nursing homes sector in Ireland claims the sector has been abandoned by the Government. It held its Annual Conference on Thursday at the Lynch Hotel in Co. Kilkenny, with an Emergency General Meeting of its membership taking place post conference.
The meeting was held after the organisation described the Department of Health’s scheme to support nursing homes in managing rising energy costs as “ill-fit-for-purpose”. The Temporary Inflation Payment Scheme was announced this week; nursing homes had requested a €195 increase, but were instead told €15 was available under the scheme.
NHI has insisted that the exceptional cost pressures being incurred by Irish nursing homes are not being realistically addressed by the Government, against a worrying backdrop of private and voluntary nursing home closures in 2022. NHI engaged in an eight-month discussion with the Department of Health, along with Minister of State Mary Butler on proposals for the scheme, NHI CEO, Tadhg Daly said.
Mr Daly said: “We are in the midst of the most severe crisis for private and voluntary nursing homes. An emergency situation presents. Following eight months of constructive discussion with Minister Butler and the Department of Health, this week we were rebuffed with the paucity of the Temporary Inflation Payment Scheme.
“The bitter disappointment emanates from the scheme being brought into effect being completely removed from the reality of huge increase in costs incurred for nursing homes this past year. This has included hikes in heating, electricity, food and beverage, and staffing, which are core costs within the round-the-clock healthcare settings that are nursing homes”.
He also said the package, a €10 million allocation, representing a contribution of €15 per resident, totals less than half a percent of the €23 billion announced for healthcare in Budget 2023.
“The independent analysis we presented to the Department, at their request, which entailed analysis of a cross representative sample of nursing homes, informed at a minimum the year-on-year increase amounted to €194 per resident. TIPS represents a €15 contribution per resident, with the €10 million allocation less than half a percent of the €23 billion announced for healthcare in Budget 2023. This is about providing care to our most high-dependent citizens within an extreme inflationary environment.
“We want to work constructively with the Minister and her Department, but the disappointment in the sector is extreme given the scheme is so far removed from reality. Nursing home care is ultimately funded by the State through the Fair Deal scheme. But private and voluntary providers are being suppressed, given HSE counterparts are given effectively €700 per resident, per week, more to provide equivalent care.
“16 closures of nursing homes in one year is unprecedented and we are facing into an even more difficult year if the reality of care costs is not appropriately recognised. We are calling upon An Taoiseach Micheál Martin to intervene to stem the crisis in nursing home care and extended older person and social care. This crisis will become exacerbated if hundreds more beds are to close in the weeks, month and year ahead. This is a very real fear across our sector.”
The representative body also urged the Government to reform the pricing mechanism in place under the Fair Deal scheme.
“At the crux of the emergency that presents is a not fit for purpose pricing mechanism that is now tipping the sector over the edge. Hundreds of nursing home beds have closed in our communities the past four years. Twelve years into Fair Deal, successive reviews have pointed to the scheme’s pricing mechanism being detached from the reality of resident care costs. This crisis, coupled with the rapid growth in requirement that will present for nursing home care in tandem with our ageing population, should compel Government to address the scheme’s failings and bring into effect a proper evidence-based funding model,” Mr Daly said.
The Conference and exhibition also heard from a series of presentations, including from economist Jim Power, who presented the findings of a research paper which assessed the cost to the Exchequer of implementing pay equalisation between HSE and private and voluntary nursing homes. Deputy David Cullinane TD, Opposition Spokesman on Health, also addressed the conference, giving a keynote address entitled, ‘Paving a new road’, along with clinical psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy.