The rate at which elderly patients are being forced to pay privately for nursing home care is increasing due to ongoing delays in accessing the nursing home support scheme (NHSS), according to a snap survey of private nursing homes.
Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) undertook the survey on foot of a “high number” of calls from members and the general public regarding delays in accessing both Fair Deal and transitional care funding support.
NHI CEO, Tadhg Daly, said the survey is “just a snapshot” of the pressures patients and their families are under, with elderly people forced to remain in hospital “despite being ready for discharge back into the community, via nursing home care”.
The average cost of nursing home care is around €1,000 per week. Under Fair Deal, patients’ contributions are based on their means, with the State paying the balance.
“Nursing homes liaising with families are hearing their frustrations and upset as their loved ones remain within hospitals unnecessarily,” Mr Daly said.
Responses from nursing homes that took part in the survey on August 15 paint a bleak picture.
- A home in Dublin reported six people on its waiting list awaiting approval for Fair Deal, two of whom are at home, four in hospital. Five of them were offered a bed in the home in July but were not able to take up the offer due to Fair Deal delays. They were not in a position to pay privately.
- A home in Westmeath said it has been advised by nurse managers at the Midlands Regional Hospital Mullingar that Fair Deal was not being offered and patients were funding their care privately
- A home in Cork said there were three people awaiting placements as no transitional funding was available
- A home in Kildare said transitional care funding is very difficult to get and that the HSE was “apologetic” “but just using the line ‘no funding available’."
Earlier this week, the University of Limerick hospitals group said it is facing “additional pressures” accessing transitional care and home care package funding. The group said this has contributed to a rise in delayed discharges “untypical” in the midwest.
Last Wednesday, there were 42 delayed discharges across UL Hospitals Group, which a spokesperson said is about twice the average level.
Mr Daly said the survey also revealed that hospital staff are planning the discharge of patients and liaising with families “but are then hamstrung due to funding supports not being available”.
The HSE said waiting times for entry to the NHSS "are an average of six – seven weeks" and that it is "working to minimise any delays and support for patients being discharged from acute hospitals to long term residential care". It said the NHSS has a budget allocation of €999m for 2019 and supports approximately 23,042 people at any one time.