The average bed occupancy rate in the South rose from around 86% in 2009 to 96% last year, so homes in the area were, effectively, at capacity.
According to a report by Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), the number of homes has decreased by 4% in the last five years. It shows there is currently just one private nursing home bed for every 20.23 persons aged 65 and over in Ireland.
NHI chief executive Tadhg Daly said the worrying drop in the number of homes, from 447 to 437, since 2010 could become a trend if something is not done to turn the situation around.
“What you have at the moment through the Fair Deal [nursing home support] scheme is a monopoly of purchasing through the State and that’s driving down the rate it’s paying to nursing home providers,” said Mr Daly.
In 2014, the average weekly rate nationally under Fair Deal for accommodation in private and voluntary nursing homes was €896. The average weekly rate under Fair Deal for accommodation in public nursing homes was €1,245 in 2011 — the last time such information was published.
However, the report points out staff costs in the private nursing home sector accounted for 61% of turnover in private and voluntary nursing homes.
The average staff cost per registered bed was €27,130 — an 18% increase since 2009.
The author of the report and partner and head of healthcare at BDO, Brian McEnery, said the dependency level in nursing homes had been increasing year on year.
He pointed out that 65% of residents in nursing homes had a maximum to high dependency level, compared to 54% in 2009, and 86% of all residents were 75 or over.
Around 45% of residents were clinically diagnosed with dementia.
“We will need a significant investment in the nursing home sector to be able to meet the changes in the profile of its residents,” he said.
The average Fair Deal rate has risen in all counties since 2009 and while Donegal experienced the highest relative increase at almost 13%, it remains the lowest county average in Ireland at €748 a week.
Dublin had the highest country average where the rate rose by almost 4% to €1,100. The overall increase in the rate since 2009 was 5.4%, about 1% per year, because Fair Deal contracts were linked to the consumer price index or had fixed interval increases.
Mr Daly said that while the number of beds in the private and voluntary sector had increased by 1,752 last year, it was not enough to meet the numbers required based on the country’s ageing population.
Some 42% of homes plan to develop beds, with 19 the average number planned.