Bishop warns deal threatens care home’s future

THE chairperson of one of the country’s largest care homes for the elderly has warned that it will not be able to care for its residents “properly or safely” under new Government funding arrangements.

Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Bishop Paul Colton, the chairperson of the Board of Directors of Saint Luke’s Home in Cork, called last night on the Government to intervene to ensure more realistic payments are made to specialised care homes such as St Luke’s through its new Nursing Homes Support Scheme – the so-called Fair Deal scheme.

Since its introduction last year the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has been negotiating new rates with providers of long-term care beds for the elderly.

The Friends of Cobh Community Hospital – a 38-bed long-term care facility for the elderly in Co Cork – expressed concerns earlier this week that it faces closure under the rates being proposed – and could be facing a €780,000 reduction this year.

Its board met on Thursday to discuss new rates proposed by the NTPF.

In a statement yesterday the hospital said that the impact of the proposed funding via the NPTF is still being evaluated.

“The Board of Management appreciates the grave concern of the patients, staff and local community at the prospect of change in status of Cobh Community Hospital consequent to the introduction of the Fair Deal,” it said.

Bishop Colton said Cobh Community Hospital is not alone: “It looks as if other specialised care homes will be in the same boat.”

St Lukes Home in Mahon was established in 1872 and is today one of the country’s most respected specialised care homes for the elderly.

Run by an independent charity, it has 121 beds, 288 staff, a day-care facility, education and training facilities, and over the last decade, it has developed a specialist dementia care unit.

But Bishop Colton said the residents in homes such as Saint Luke’s cannot be cared for on anything like the scale of rates that are being indicated in letters his board has received outlining the terms of the Fair Deal.

“We at Saint Luke’s Home – a highly regarded residential home specialising in dementia care – are not optimistic about being able to negotiate a rate from the NTPF,” he said.

“The scale of rates they have written to tell us about would make our work, quite simply, impossible.

“We are due to meet them next week, but as things stand, we could not care for our residents properly or safely on the basis of the scale being indicated to us.”

Bishop Colton questioned whether the state has learned anything from the Leas Cross scandal.

“Homes such as ours set high standards for the care of our residents and in order to do that the state has to pay the actual cost of the bills it incurs in relation to residents it places in the care of our voluntary charity.

“All of us have to pay our actual bills: it’s not up to charities to pay the state’s bills.”

And he pointed out that the need for dementia care is going to increase.

“If the Government wants beds for the elderly to be available, such as those we offer within the system, it will either have to pay the actual cost or prepare to run more of its own facilities,” Bishop Colton said.

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