Government defends strategy on nursing home charges

The statement came as TDs were told they must wait a week before debating the allegations, despite 'emergency sessions' being sought
Government defends strategy on nursing home charges

Government leaders have defended the legal strategy on historic nursing home charges, dismissing claims they were involved in a State policy to deny refunds to people illegally charged for care. 

They moved tonight to distance themselves from allegations the State deliberately denied payment of up to €12bn in refunds to people illegally charged nursing home fees.

Department of Health whistleblower Shane Corr revealed details in a protected disclosure that was reported over the weekend.

Late on Monday night, a Government spokesperson said that the legal strategy predated the 2011 Fine Gael/Labour government and that no case taken on the issue had ever proceeded to a hearing.

A statement said: “The legal strategy pre-dated July 2011 and was pursued by successive governments. It has been misrepresented. 

"The strategy was to defend the cases relating to private nursing homes on several grounds, in particular, that medical card holders did not have an unqualified entitlement to free private nursing home care. 

A limited number of individual cases were settled where there were complicating factors. No case ever proceeded to a hearing. 

"In the case of public nursing homes, a scheme was put in place and €480m was paid to former residents or their families. 

"Minister Donnelly has sought advice from the Attorney General and a detailed briefing from his Department.”

The statement came as TDs were told they must wait a week before debating the allegations, despite “emergency sessions” being sought.

The delay in the hearings follows a request from officials in the Department of Health for time to gather relevant documents relating to the alleged strategy.

The Government has been on the back foot since the story first emerged on Sunday and, in a bid to quell the mounting political controversy, has called on Attorney General Rossa Fanning to “look into this issue”.

At a meeting of the Dáil Business Committee, it was agreed to hold the Dáil session next week to allow the Department of Health “collate information”.

TDs reluctantly agreed to allow officials time to gather the information after Rural Independent TDs, led by Verona Murphy, had sought the urgent session in the Dáil to discuss.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Ms Murphy said: “This is incredibly serious. What we have here is a deliberate strategy to deny people, many of whom would not have the means to sue the State, from what they were owed.

"We need answers, and urgently, by way of emergency sittings in the Dáil and at the Public Accounts Committee.”

Leading Government figures including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin have denied any knowledge of the strategy.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson for Mr Martin said the Tánaiste “would not have been aware of any legal strategy or memo on nursing home charges”.

Earlier, Mr Varadkar said that he was never a party to a legal strategy in relation to nursing home charges.

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