Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has called for urgent action from the Government after it emerged that almost 4% of private and voluntary nursing homes have either closed in the past two years or are set to close within weeks.
There were 456 private and voluntary nursing homes last year, with 14 smaller homes closing over the last two years and three more set to close in the coming weeks.
Health watchdog Hiqa this week highlighted concerns, saying in 2018 there were 217 nursing homes with fewer than 40 beds but by last year this reduced to 188.
Hiqa said: “Smaller nursing homes that are embedded in the local community offer person-centred care in a very homely environment.”
Closures, Hiqa found, can mean older people travel further from their locality to find homes.
Nursing Homes Ireland chief executive Tadhg Daly said there were immediate and long-term implications.
“Smaller nursing homes are finding it extremely difficult and, for some, impossible to cope,” he said.
“Some have said it is just not viable to operate a nursing home and have closed their doors.”
NHI met Minister for Older People, Mary Butler, about this on July 8.
“However, it is disappointing, despite the months of engagement, no measure has been brought forward by the Government to alleviate the pressures upon nursing homes,” Mr Daly said.
He said the crisis highlights problems with the Fair Deal scheme, which covers costs for residents in these homes.
“The consequences of long-standing Fair Deal failings are now driving smaller nursing homes from care and our communities," he warned.
A spokeswoman for Ms Butler said she was “acutely aware” of challenges posed by increasing energy costs and inflation and had recently visited public, private and voluntary homes.
“It is imperative that nursing homes manage potential cost pressures in line with their regulatory and contractual responsibilities, maintaining their quality of care so that residents’ lived experience and comfort is not affected,” the spokeswoman said.
The minister also met with the National Treatment Purchase Fund, which make nursing home payments, and they are now considering new data submitted by NHI.
The minister hopes to respond fully to NHI following engagement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.