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Minister leaves 5,000 residents behind in nursing homes

Saturday April 18, 2020

Disregard for reality of care required for nursing homes an insult to older people

18th April 2020:  Nursing Homes Ireland today questions the Minister for Health’s commitment to his own claims of not wanting to leave anyone behind in this pandemic.

The latest example follows a meeting on Friday evening with Minister Harris.  After an express commitment that he and officials would engage further regarding a delayed comprehensive package of resources for the sector, three hours later he and his officials unilaterally and without notice published a flawed scheme that excludes supports for approximately 5,000 residents in nursing homes. This was despite an express commitment to engage with NHI arising from the considerable concerns of nursing homes across Ireland regarding the scheme.  The funding only applies to Fair Deal residents, excluding all residents accommodated for transitional care, respite and other people who self-pay for care in nursing homes.

There is a chasm between the Minister’s statement of “it is vital we leave nobody behind as we navigate our way out of this pandemic” and his exclusion of approximately 5,000 residents. Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “A significant proportion of people cared for in nursing homes are non-Fair Deal. These residents may be availing of the care services of the nursing home for transitional care, respite or rehabilitative care and other residents and their families are paying from their own resources. Understandably, the State has leaned upon nursing homes in recent weeks to ensure older people are removed from acute hospital settings. Now it is excluding the costs entailed to encompass their care needs during Covid-19. This is blatant discrimination.”

NHI has requested an immediate review of the proposed package and was given a commitment at yesterday’s meeting with the Minister and senior health officials that further engagement would be undertaken.

“It is not acceptable for Department to take the unilateral decision to publish it after Minister promised further engagement with NHI,” Mr Daly said. “What has arisen has caused great anger and upset within nursing homes.”

He added: “Nursing homes continue to be the neglected frontline in this pandemic.  We continue not to be prioritised for resources and only receive attention when we cannot be ignored due to the scale of our crisis which is not of our making, cannot be managed by any sector on its own and was never visualised by anyone within existing funding for residents. The acute system, which has approximately 11,000 beds, has extra billions of euros allocated to it to fulfil its role on the frontline.  This is in contrast to our funding support even though we are under extreme pressure to provide care to 25,000 people during this health emergency. The surge has occurred in our nursing homes and this Government must recognise such by appropriately resourcing them.”

“For months we have engaged in good faith, in a spirit of cooperation but we have largely been left on our own.  The inadequate support package has only come after weeks and weeks of trying to get the required prioritisation and focus on the crisis in nursing homes.  There is a shocking gap between the Minister’s rhetoric on nursing homes and his actions.”

“While the problems with testing in nursing homes are well known and only now being addressed, PPE continues to be in crisis.  In a latest circular, nursing homes are told orders will now be based on the number of confirmed positive/suspect client cases in a unit/service. The order will be calculated based on an algorithm. All nursing homes need PPE immediately to ensure that the virus is not introduced to the 70% of homes that are Covid19 Free. The memo is a complete contradiction to State pronouncements.

“We also require supplies of PPE for a family member to be with relative at end of life, the reality is that supplies for nursing homes are being rationed.”

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO, is available for interview. Interviews will be facilitated by Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Executive, who can be contacted at 087 9082970.