Age Action has called on the Minister for Health and the National Treatment Purchase Fund to urgently clarify what cuts are being made to payments to nursing homes under the Nursing Home Support Scheme, and if home owners are being encouraged by Fund officials to pass these cuts on to their nursing home residents.
Correspondence publicised this week by the Irish Patients Association shows that the NTPF has offered one home a rate of €1,050 per bed per week under the “Fair Deal” scheme – a cut of €60 per week. The home owner claimed that the official involved in the negotiations suggested that the short fall be passed on to residents by charging for social activities in the home.
Age Action is extremely concerned by these claims, noting that nursing home residents on low incomes were already under severe financial pressure under the terms of the “Fair Deal” scheme. It urged the Minister for Health to clarify the situation and insist that no further charges are imposed on nursing home residents.
“Under the Fair Deal scheme the State currently takes 80% of a person’s disposable income along with up to 22.5% of the value of their home,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said. “For somebody on a State Pension, they are left with just €44 per week to pay for other essential costs which are not covered by the Fair Deal, such as chiropody, physiotherapy, specialised wheelchairs, the prescription charge for their medications, toiletries and hairdressing.”
“To suggest that a mandatory charge now be introduced for social activities in a bid to pick up the tab for cost cutting by the State, will leave many older people in penury and choosing between which of these other essential services they will have to go without.”
Age Action warned that the original purpose of the Fair Deal scheme when it was introduced in 2009 was to end uncertainty about the ability to afford a nursing home bed if a person needed one. “By creating new charges to be paid out of what is left after the State has taken its cut under the Fair Deal, would completely undermine the original purpose of the scheme,” Mr Timmins said.
The Department of Health is currently reviewing the Fair Deal Scheme. Age Action is urging that the scheme must at the very least be fair, and cover the cost of essential services which a person needs in a nursing home.