€300m fund to support investment in health

A €300m fund to support investment in the healthcare sector and meet the future needs of Ireland’s ageing population is set to be announced today.

Allied Irish Banks’ Healthcare Fund is aimed at providing funding for healthcare services and capital investment projects in the sector.

With the number of people over 65 expected to increase by 200,000 over the next seven years, it is expected that up to 10,000 additional jobs could be created as research indicates demand for 8,000 new nursing home places by 2021.

Commenting on the fund, AIB head of business banking, Ken Burke, said: “The future is positive for the long-term care sector in Ireland, with the growing demand for places in nursing homes.

“We are launching the €300m healthcare fund to support investment across healthcare services and specifically to support funding to nursing home operators who are critical to the provision of care to our ageing population.”

Research carried out on behalf of AIB shows that 81% of nursing home operators did not expect the supply of nursing homes beds to meet the predicted future increase in demand.

The research, which canvassed the views of all private and voluntary nursing home operators and owners, also found 31% of respondents are planning to invest less than €250,000, while at the other end of the scale 16% are planning to invest in excess of €5m.

Mr Burke told the Irish Examiner that a number of operators had intimated they had significant projects in the pipeline that are dependant on accessing sufficient levels of funding.

On the back of very strong demand, the number of approvals in the sector this year is up 200% on the same period in 2013.

The most common investment planned by nursing home operators is an extension of their existing premises (35%), followed by adding a specialist dementia unit to their operations (20%), and building a new facility (19%).

According to the research, a number of obstacles are hindering development in the sector however, including uncertainty around government funding for nursing home care, increasing running costs, the availability of nursing staff, and high costs of compliance.

Greater government support in educating and training staff to meet the growing demand in the sector was also highlighted as a critical factor in meeting the sector’s future needs, the survey found.

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