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Private nursing homes care for those most in need

ON behalf of Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), the representative body for the private and voluntary nursing home sector, I wish to correct a number of factual errors in your article headlined ‘Why are we abandoning the elderly’ (August 25).

The claim was made by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that private nursing homes “are in a position where they can pick and choose the nature of their patients. Will we eventually find ourselves in a position where those who need the maximum care will not have the facilities open to them?”

This is incorrect.

Private and voluntary nursing homes provide care to residents with maximum needs. Under the Fair Deal scheme, the resident chooses the nursing home – not the other way around. The only qualification here is whether the homes, whether public or private, can meet the needs of the person being cared for. But the private and voluntary homes that NHI represents do, in fact, care for those with maximum dependency.

The article also contained another claim from the INMO: “We advocate for safe care and appropriate nursing staff with the necessary skills to cater for the dependency level of the individual. In our view, this cannot be guaranteed in the private, non-profit system.”

We in NHI also advocate for safe, high-quality, person-centred care which is guaranteed in private and voluntary nursing homes. The reality is that the private and voluntary sector has been regulated and inspected since 1990, while public nursing homes only came under independent inspection last July.

The private and voluntary sector has, for many years, sought the introduction of legislation and standards that will deliver a consistently high level of care and service for elderly people. We strongly support the new HIQA standards and support our members in complying with, and indeed exceeding, those standards.

Eamon Timmins of Age Action is quoted as follows: “Public patients in contracted beds in private homes have found it difficult to access public services such as chiropody and physiotherapy because, in some cases, HSE staff do not visit these homes. Public nursing homes can provide these types of services to older people who need them in a more cost-effective way.”

Unfortunately, the problem here is not with the private and voluntary sector nursing homes but with service provision by the HSE. As stated by Mr Timmins, the difficulty lies with access to such services. Chiropody and physiotherapy services are vital to older people and should be provided based on the person’s need, not whether they happen to live in the community or in a public or a private home. We have highlighted this anomaly and despite residents holding a medical card and an entitlement to such services, the provision by HSE is patchy, at best, nationwide.

NHI believes this so strongly it has lodged a formal complaint with the Ombudsman and Information Commissioner in order to ensure the therapies required by older people are delivered to them on an equitable basis.

The final comment about cost effectiveness is also misleading. Places in public nursing homes, in many cases, are nearly twice as expensive as the private and voluntary sector for the same service. The average across all settings in the public sector is €1,371 per week as against an average in the private and voluntary sector of €829 per week. The same standards of care apply, the same inspection regime is followed and, in many cases, the facilities are actually more modern and up-to-date. NHI will continue to facilitate improving standards in the care we provide. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve this, including the contributors to your article.

Tadhg Daly

CEO Nursing Homes Ireland

Centrepoint Business Park

Oak Road

Dublin 12


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