Thousands of private nursing home residents will continue to be potentially liable for extra payments averaging around €100 a week as Fair Deal fees from the State fall short of what is given to public facilities.
ew figures released yesterday showed the weekly cost of accommodating a resident of a private nursing home averaged around €950 but care in a HSE-run facility can range from €1,242 or more than €2,000.
Although a private nursing home resident’s contribution to their care under the Fair Deal scheme is the same, regardless of the weekly cost, the lower subsidy to the sector from the State means many continue to have to pay out of their own pockets for “extras” every week.
In a recent case investigated by the Ombudsman, a Fair Deal resident, already contributing 80pc of her income for her care, was charged an additional €7 a day or €212.91 a month for extra services such as dental, GP, optical physiotherapy and recreational services.
The Ombudsman said some services such as GP and pastoral care were already covered under the contract of care and he directed any additional charges should not mean paying on the double.
In another case, a nursing home issued a €50-a-month laundry charge.
The home said it did not charge for organised activities not covered by Fair Deal and offered a €2,000 refund. However, the Ombudsman asked for a full refund of €3,500.
Many nursing homes insist the additional fees are needed for services such as social activities, incontinence wear and therapies which are not covered under the Fair Deal scheme, and they have no choice but to charge extra.
Nursing Homes Ireland has accused the HSE of paying itself more for Fair Deal residents in public facilities while private operators must get an agreement with the National Treatment Purchase Fund, making it potentially unviable.
The HSE said yesterday in public nursing homes there is a minor increase in the average cost of care from €1,674 per week in 2021 to €1,698 in 2022.
“This 1.4pc increase is influenced by pay increases provided under the Lansdowne Road Agreement which come out of the HSE’s wages budget rather than the €1bn Fair Deal allocation.
A spokeswoman said :”These costs apply to the operating costs of providing care in these centres. They do not relate to the amount a person will pay towards their care under Fair Deal.
“It is acknowledged that there are variations in the cost of care across public centres as well as across private nursing homes, with public nursing homes generally having a higher cost of care.
“(There have been) Reductions in the number of long-stay public beds to comply with health and safety, fire regulations and Hiqa compliance with residential care standards, while fixed costs such as lighting, heating, maintenance costs have increased. Public nursing homes generally have higher nurse staffing ratios in place than private nursing homes.”
Junior Minister for Older People Mary Butler has said although Fair Deal covers core living expenses, residents can incur some costs such as social programmes, newspapers and hairdressing.
She said residents should never be charged fees not set out in the contract agreed when a person enters a home.
An operator should never look for extra payment from residents for items covered by the Fair Deal scheme, the medical card or another existing scheme. “The Department of Health and the HSE are not party to such contracts which are concluded between the resident and the nursing home,” she added.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has published consumer protection guidelines for contracts of care in nursing homes which cover the top-up charges.
The latest weekly cost-of-care figures reveal regional variations with private nursing homes in Dublin, Wicklow, Cavan and Kildare among the counties getting over €1,000 on average. In contrast, nursing homes in Galway, Offaly, Mayo, Tipperary and Donegal have weekly costs of €950.