Micheál Martin warns of crisis if care homes not upgraded

A crisis in State-run care homes is looming due to lack of funding for upgrades, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has warned.

A failure of government investment has led to alarm that 21 of the biggest such residences may not pass stringent new HIQA standards, set to come into force in July, Mr Martin told the Dáil.

The Fianna Fáil leader said ministers had not set aside money in the health estimates for this year in order to bring the care homes up to standard.

“They span 14 counties, six in Co Cork alone. We are talking about institutions such as Peamount, Leopardstown Park, Gorey district hospital, Tralee, Monaghan, Nenagh, and many others, and of course St Finbarr’s in Cork city, Castletownbere, Bandon, St Joseph’s in Bantry, and St Joseph’s in Millstreet. The bottom line is that unless the standards are met by July, or unless there is some indication of a real commitment to meet those standards, the options are closure of the institutions, a significant reduction in beds, or closure of high-acute or high-dependency units,” he said.

Mr Martin questioned whether Government attitudes marked “creeping privitisation by stealth”.

“Hiqa has been very clear in saying that if a centre is not in compliance by July 2015, and if no realistic time-bound, costed, funded plan has been agreed with the authority, then appropriate conditions will be attached to any renewal of registration. We need a bit of honesty from the Government about what is going to happen,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted it was “right and proper” that a new standards regime be imposed for such homes as some of them dated back 100 years, and that the situation was still being examined ahead of the summer deadline.

“There is no privatisation by stealth going on here. Hiqa has clearly said the discussions going on between the HSE and itself arise from public units around the country that are currently registered but due for de-registration in 2015 or 2016.

“Hiqa has indicated a number of these facilities do not fully meet the standards one would expect in a modern nursing home. That is not surprising given that the age of some of them is in excess of 100 years. Last year, €36m was allocated in the capital plan for the continued upgrade of public residential facilities and €122.34m has been allocated for the period ahead. I also understand from the Department of Health and the HSE that there is adequate flexibility for solutions to be found, both within the terms of the existing legislative proposals and through discussions currently going on between the HSE and Hiqa,” Mr Kenny said in Leaders Questions.

When Mr Martin insisted the truth was not being told to the people concerned by the shake-up, the Taoiseach said the Fianna Fáil leader’s “sense of righteousness” was “extraordinary”.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny told Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams he did not support the idea of an EU debt conference to look at the issue of bailouts if the left comes to power in Greece on Sunday. He said it would be wrong for him to interfere in the internal politics of another state.

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