Independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice has pointed to "a raft of private nursing home closures across the country" in recent weeks noting that "Roscommon appears to have been hit hardest with three high-profile nursing home closures".
The Roscommon-Galway TD says solutions are needed to ensure our ageing population can be catered for: “The future of elder care looks to be in trouble at the moment, looking at the number of nursing homes closing at present, probably due to high energy costs and staffing issues. But also due to the cost of complying with new regulations.
"There appears to be a growing trend of nursing home closures both locally and nationally. We need to put supports in place to ensure these closures can be prevented and that new places can be made available.”
Deputy Fitzmaurice stresses that local nursing homes are invaluable to their areas, especially with the demographic of elderly people that are in the West of Ireland.
"They are vital to communities everywhere and often mean that local people can grow old with dignity in or close to the communities that they have spent their lives building," he notes.
Deputy Fitzmaurice says that intervention is needed by the state to help the nursing homes to continue providing care.
“Many of the nursing homes that are closing cite the fact that they simply cannot fund the works that are required to comply with new fire regulations. While no one could responsibly suggest that nursing homes should be given a waiver to not comply with the regulations, accommodation should be made for older nursing homes and in particular nursing homes which were not purpose-built facilities," he points out.
“I am calling on the Government to put in place a grant system for nursing homes to help them comply with the costs of complying with new regulations. I will also be suggesting that any nursing home which avails of the grant will have to commit to continuing to provide nursing home spaces for a reasonable period of time or be compelled to repay the grant.
“What is noticeable, at present, is that when the nursing homes close in certain areas then there appears to be an easy option to reopen these centres for alternative purposes. This is a very worrying trend for the simple reason that we already have a shortage of nursing home places and having a very lucrative alternative business model readily available to property owners is making the decision to cease the provision of nursing home services that bit easier.
“The entire model of how we fund nursing home places, particularly in smaller nursing homes, needs to be looked at; however, that will be a long-term objective. In the upcoming budget, the Government can make funds available to support nursing home providers to stop the exodus which we are facing."
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