THE Health Service Executive (HSE) has been told to plug the hole in the state’s nursing home support scheme by returning to it €100 million of the ring-fenced fund spent elsewhere.
However, it was unclear last night if other areas of the health service would suffer as a result of the clawback, given the money has already been spent.
Yesterday, Health Minister Dr James Reilly said it had become apparent that money earmarked for Fair Deal “was used for ancillary services such as therapies etc, and indeed drugs”, by the HSE, both last year and this year.
He said the Department of Health had only recently become aware of this and, together with the HSE, was investigating the matter. The minister said he was not suggesting any wrongdoing but that, “through confused messaging”, between his department and the HSE, monies had been incorrectly diverted.
The minister said he was happy, however, to reassure those applying for support through Fair Deal that “there will now be money” for its continued operation.
The statement was welcomed by Age Action, which said the news earlier this week that the fund had run out of money had left many callers to its helpline in tears.
However, last night the HSE said it was “seeking clarity” from the department in relation to Dr Reilly’s comments.
It emphasised that the €1.01bn available to the HSE for long-term residential care “has always and will continue to be used exclusively for the care of older people resident in nursing homes”.
This included providing “services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and medicines to nursing home residents who had been in receipt of these services”, the statement said. The HSE was also seeking clarity on whether it could again start approving new applications, a process suspended during the week.
Nursing Homes Ireland called for a thorough review of the budgetary arrangements.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said he welcomed the Fine Gael commitment to complete the investigation into Fair Deal “in a week or two”.
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