A major crisis is looming in the provision of nursing home care for older persons, according to Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI).
A spokesperson for the NHI, the organisation representing the private and voluntary nursing homes sector, described Department of Health estimates that more than 2,000 persons will be waiting for a nursing home place by the end of 2013, as very worrying.
The waiting time for funding approval for a nursing home place under the Fair Deal scheme is also set to rise to 17 weeks according Department officials.
This situation has arisen after the Department changes the rules for the scheme for a short period earlier this year from ‘first-come first-served” to a system where patients were transferred from hospitals.
This caused issues for families who had moved their family members into private nursing homes in the expectation that this would guarantee them early approval under the scheme.
Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes stated: “We now have a very serious crisis because the State is neglecting its responsibility to ensure older persons are provided with the necessary and required support to allow them avail of the specialist care provided by nursing homes.
“We are faced with a bill of €1.7bn to maintain the State’s current level of public sector nursing home provision at 20% while the private and voluntary nursing home sector continues to demand an appropriate framework that will allow it meet increasing demand for the specialist healthcare they provide. We are effectively in limbo,” he said.
This comes just weeks after a report on public Long-stay units in the HSE West area, revealed that, while all are currently registered with HIQA for the next three years, from 2015, only one unit in the region, in Galway, will be fully compliant with stricter rules coming into force.
This will add to pressure already on the private and voluntary nursing homes sector.
With CSO figures showing Co Leitrim has the third highest proportion of the population over the age of 65 (14.8% in 2011) and the highest proportion of people over 65 living alone in the State (31.3%), there are concerns that there simply won’t be enough places to cater for demand in future.
Mr Daly has called on the Minister for Older Persons, Kathleen Lynch and the Department to “face up to reality” and establish a Forum on Long Term Residential Care. “The warnings cannot continuously be ignored,” he said.