Extra charges at nursing homes ‘preventing access’

Michael and Kathleen Devereaux

Additional charges imposed on older people and their families under the Fair Deal scheme stop some from accessing nursing home care.

Age Action said the amounts being charged, the transparency of the scheme and in some cases the “dubious legality” of the charge can cause serious problems for nursing home residents and their families.

The report comes just weeks after the scheme hit the headlines after an application to place Michael and Kathleen Devereaux together in a nursing was refused. They have been together for 63 years.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the decision to grant Mr Devereaux a place in a nursing home, but not his wife, as “devoid of common sense and devoid of humanity”.

Under Fair Deal, a resident’s contribution is made up of three charges: n Residents must pay 80% of their assessable income. n An annual levy of 7.5% on their assets from which the first €36,000 is exempt. n A levy of 7.5% of the value of their home, if any, for three years.

The State makes up any balance. However, the payments exclude the cost of services like social activities, doctor’s service at weekends, therapies and transport. These are paid separately and are included in the contract which is signed before the resident moves in.

Age Action said it has received complaints about this aspect of the scheme from families and social workers. In one case, it said, a family had been hit with extra charges which came to almost €4,500 per year.

In another case, a woman was being charged for a ‘doctor’s service’ despite having a full medical card. The nursing home refused to provide an itemised bill. After it was confirmed that such a charge was illegal, the woman’s daughter engaged a solicitor on the matter.

Head of advocacy and communications with Age Action, Justin Moran, said the charges were undermining the core aim of the scheme.

“One of the key principles of the Fair Deal scheme is that older people have choice,” he said. “No one is prevented from choosing the nursing home they prefer because of their incomes. But steadily increasing charges imposed by nursing homes are pricing older people and their families out.”

CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly said it has long called for an overhaul in how fees are set. It has campaigned for transparency and accountability including an independent appeals process in the National Treatment Purchase Fund pricing mechanism to set Fair Deal fees.

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