Ageing population ‘a ticking timebomb’

The health service is “seriously unprepared” to cater for Ireland’s ageing population and faces a “ticking timebomb” unless it drastically improves nursing home facility numbers.

Leading private group Nursing Homes Ireland made the claim at its annual conference yesterday, warning that the issue cannot continue to be ignored.

Speaking at the Dublin event, chief executive Tadhg Daly said as many as 53 new nursing homes are needed within the next three years because of a lack of services for older people.

He said such a development will create as many as 4,200 new beds, but claimed the move is being blocked by a “continued absence” of a “realistic” national elderly care strategy.

The organisation based its prediction on the fact that Government figures suggest the number of people over the age of 85 will increase to more than 85,000 by 2021, and 135,000 just a decade later.

There will also be an inevitable rise in the number of people aged over 65 during the same period, meaning increased funding for the nursing home sector is essential.

“There are many crises that can’t be avoided but this one can,” said Mr Daly.

“We have a great opportunity to plan now and put the infrastructure and care services in place that we know will be capable of meeting the future care requirements of our ageing population.

“This sector stands ready to invest up to €1bn to create 1,000 long-term jobs a year.

“However, without a clear co-ordinated strategy on long-term care, there can be no case made or business confidence in this scale of investment.”

Among the moves the NHI wants to see take place is the establishment of a Department of Health-led expert group on long-term residential care, which it said should include “all the relevant players” — including the NHI.

However, the private nursing homes group claimed a “huge shortfall” in State capital and a requirement for “hefty investment in existing public units to bring them into compliance with national standards” means such a step is unlikely.


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