New figures reveal State increasing fees it pays to its own nursing homes and chasm grows to 60%
Nursing Homes Ireland has reiterated its call for the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the cost of care in HSE nursing homes. It follows latest publication by the HSE of the fees payable to it under the Nursing Home Support Scheme (Fair Deal). The fees were published on 23rd February minus any announcement.
They reveal State nursing homes are paying themselves up to €2,399 for care, per week, up to three times the level of fees payable in respect of residents in private and voluntary nursing homes. They reveal the average fee payable is increasing between HSE nursing homes and private and voluntary providers. The average fee payable to HSE nursing homes is now a national average 60% above that payable to residents in private and voluntary nursing homes. When the HSE fees were last published in October 2016 the average differential was 53%. Over the 16 month period, the fees payable within HSE nursing homes increased by an average 11%. Over the corresponding period, the average fees in private and voluntary nursing homes increased by 3.9% despite incessant cost pressures that threaten the sustainability of private and voluntary providers.
Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO said: “Somebody needs to shout stop and question how public funds are being utilised within State nursing homes. We are calling upon the Public Accounts Committee to fulfil its previous commitment to examine the cost of care within HSE nursing homes and seek to provide some transparency and answers to very serious questions with regard to this element of public spending.
“Fair Deal accounts for about €1 billion of our health spend. The review of the scheme recommended fees be published on an annual basis to provide a required transparency. Yet over the past seven years the HSE has published its fees twice.
“The HSE is subject to no negotiation or independent oversight. Transparency is completely absent. The HSE is paying itself fees that are a national average 60% above those payable to private and voluntary nursing homes, the majority providers of specialist dementia care. The discrepancy is even greater when you consider fees payable to private and voluntary nursing homes must entail capital costs, commercial rates and insurance premiums. These could add an additional €200 per week to the cost of running the nursing home. These costs are not entailed within the HSE fees.
“Discriminatory practice is occurring within nursing home care in Ireland and accountability must be applied. Why are HSE paying themselves fees that are up to three times those payable to private and voluntary counterparts? Why is there such a gaping chasm across the country in fees payable? Private and voluntary nursing homes are pressed by the NTPF to provide care for fees that are not sustainable yet HSE nursing homes are subject to no negotiation or requirement to justify what they pay themselves.
“The State spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General, is already examining spend for care in HSE nursing homes and we hope this examination will provide required answers. The Public Accounts Committee has previously committed to examine spend within HSE nursing homes and this must become a priority for the Committee. This accounts for a considerable element of health spend and urgently requires PAC examination and focus.”