Son wins compensation over nursing home delays

Son wins compensation over nursing home delays
Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly

Careless Health Service Executive (HSE) staff stalled a family’s efforts to get their elderly mother a public bed in a nursing home for eight years, it was revealed today.

The woman’s son, who was left in debt by private care bills, complained to Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly who found the HSE acted unfairly and ordered it to pay the family €56,500 compensation.

Ms O’Reilly uncovered confusion in arrangements for the allocation of long stay beds and called for health administrators to be more open and consistent.

In the elderly woman’s case, Ms O’Reilly said the delays were mainly down to careless HSE staff.

In a separate investigation into the HSE, the watchdog ordered it to pay €100,000 after 15 complaints from the south of the country over delays in financial supports for nursing home fees.

A third inquiry found a Government department wrongly stopped a man’s disability allowance because he had to be cared for in the North and ordered him to be paid €14,000 in arrears.

Ms O’Reilly said: “In all three cases I found that the action or inaction of the public bodies concerned was contrary to fair or sound administration.”

Following the elderly woman’s delayed public care, the family forked out €38,000 between 1996 and 2004 for private nursing home costs. Her son was €15,000 in debt trying to pay the bills.

The Ombudsman ruled that the family were owed €30,000 for bed fees, another €25,000 which should have been paid as far back as 1995 if a public bed had been provided, and €1,500 for the relatives’ hardship.

The inquiry also uncovered HSE delays in dealing with correspondence and that officials changed their stance on a number of occasions.

In the Ombudsman’s second report, she found all those looking for support for nursing home bills were on a low income, usually the state pension.

The supports they were getting, known as the nursing home subvention, fell far short of the charges.

The HSE told families the rates they were getting could be appealed against and although higher rates were then ordered, in some cases it took more than a year for the payments to be made.

The HSE blamed a lack of resources, the Ombudsman reported.

In the investigation into the handling of financial support for a disabled man, the then Department of Social & Family Affairs, now the Department of Social Protection, refused to pay arrears for October 2004 to May 2006.

Civil servants claimed the man was not due the money because he was out of the country.

But the Ombudsman found he was forced to move to the North for adequate care - at the same time with no daily living allowance and lumbering his mother with a 298km (185 mile) round trip to visit him.

The man’s local TD complained to the Ombudsman over the handling of his case and representations were also made to the Department by a Government Minister and a minister of state.

Despite the man being forced to head north because necessary care was not available in the Republic, the Department insisted it would not pay his arrears for disability allowance because he had been “resident, whether temporarily or permanently, outside the State”.

It was ordered to pay arrears of €13,089 and €1,276.

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