Private nursing homes have accused the Government of undermining the sector with a plan to withdraw Covid funding for enhanced infection controls and staffing at the end of the month.
Nursing Homes Ireland, the industry group that represents the sector, says the decision jars alongside comments by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil on Tuesday about a "new relationship" with private and voluntary nursing homes
The group has written to the Taoiseach, asking for an urgent meeting, stating the Government decision to phase out supports creates a “cliff edge” for care homes.
The industry says the move to discontinue the Temporary Assistance Payments Scheme (Taps) comes amid continued concerns about new variants of Covid19 emerging and longer-term warnings of a fourth wave as the economy reopens. Nursing Homes Ireland says the withdrawal of financial support flies in the face of the Government's Covid-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel recommendations.
"It is wrong now for the Government to put us in a disadvantaged position again and ironic that the sector that suffered the most is the only one where supports are withdrawn now," said Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland. He said the decision to withdraw what was a "vital support scheme to deliver public health recommended measures is an absolute kick in the teeth for the sector".
The scheme was introduced in April last year to allow nursing homes to fund measures that Mr Daly said were never envisaged under Fair Deal, the system of State support that funds most of the private care home sector. It had been scheduled to end on June 30th but the industry had expected it to be extended alongside other Covid supports for business.
It is understood the scheme has seen close to €95 million paid out over the past 15 months.
“ Are the Government saying the Covid-19 expert panel recommendations are redundant and that the public health warnings do not merit continued implementation of enhanced protection measures for residents?” he asked.
“It represents early abandonment of the sector, Mr Daly said. “Nursing Homes Ireland is seeking immediate engagement with Government on what should occur post cessation of Taps.”
The scheme funded items including specialist infection prevention and control equipment to improve sanitisation in care homes as well as additional staffing requirements under Covid rules.