Nursing home scheme in danger of running out of funding

FAIR DEAL, the government scheme designed to make nursing home care “accessible, affordable and anxiety-free” is in danger of running out of funding halfway through the year.

Last night, a spokesperson for Health Minister James Reilly confirmed he was “seriously concerned” that the funding pressures had arisen so early in the year.

He said the minister had asked his officials and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to prepare proposals outlining how Fair Deal applications will be dealt with for the rest of 2011.

The minister was recently told the amount of funding available was “not sufficient to cover any net increase” in the 22,908 people currently receiving funds under Fair Deal, which is supposed to meet 70% of the cost of long-term care.

The HSE said a number of factors were contributing to increased pressure on the level of funding available for the scheme, including:

* A 2,200-plus rise in the number of people receiving state funding towards the cost of residential care compared to when the scheme commenced (22,908 in April 2011, compared to 20,706 in October 2009).

* The cost of “arrears payments”. All residents in private nursing homes on the date the scheme commenced are eligible to apply, and to have payment made from that date. In the first quarter of 2011, approximately €6.5m was spent on arrears payments to these applicants.

* The cost of private nursing homes has increased in 2011 by approximately 4%. This would lead to an additional estimated full-year cost of around €20m.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), said that, from the time the scheme was introduced, NHI had feared it was “resource-capped rather than demand-led”. The budget for 2011 to fund all long-term residential care is €1.011 billion.

Mr Daly said the development of waiting lists so early in the year was “an extremely worrying development” that would “create confusion and anxiety” for elderly people in need of nursing home care.

He said it could also create chaos throughout the health service if fewer people were approved for the scheme, causing more people to remain in hospitals for longer.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil yesterday there were no extra funds for the scheme.

The HSE said last night applications will continue to be accepted and processed under Fair Deal, but approval is subject to funds being available.

Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) hopes to raise the issue at today’s meeting of the HSE South Regional Health Forum: “My concern is care of the patient and I appeal to the minister to think of that when he considers the issue,”

Age Action Ireland described the situation as “a nightmare”.


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