Two more private nursing homes close their doors

Twelve recent closures should be ‘wake-up call’ for Government to act, says industry group

Two more nursing homes are closing their doors as rising costs, increased regulatory pressures and insufficient State subsidies for care continue to threaten the survival of smaller care homes.

Strawhall Nursing Home, a care facility for up to 30 people in Fermoy, Co Cork, and Boyne Valley Nursing Home near Drogheda, Co Louth, a home for up to 18 people, are closing. The two homes are the latest to shut their doors as small operators face major challenges.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), the representative group for private nursing home owners, said the closure of 12 nursing homes in recent weeks was a “wake-up call that can no longer be ignored”.

“It is incumbent upon the Government to finally deliver a long-term strategy to secure the financial sustainability of the sector,” said NHI chief executive Tadhg Daly.

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The management team at Strawhall, which has been in operation since 1988, said the closure was “a very sad day” and that the decision was “very difficult” and “not taken lightly”.

“The viability of our small family-run nursing home is now facing a significant number of challenges, which unfortunately it cannot overcome,” the care home said in a statement. The care facility said it would work with residents, staff and families during the “difficult transition” with residents being relocated in advance of its closure.

“We will endeavour to manage this process with the same integrity by which we have always delivered care,” it said.

Boyne Valley is also family-run, starting as a family bungalow more than 25 years ago before being extended and converted into a nursing home providing long-term care. It declined to comment on the closure when contacted.

Fine Gael TD for Co Louth Fergus O’Dowd said the closure of smaller nursing homes was a big loss for residents and families but also for local communities.

“Moving people out of any home when closing creates huge trauma for those families because individuals are leaving an environment they have become used to for many years,” he said.

Higher energy and staff costs and escalating demands set by the healthcare regulator, the Health Information and Quality Authority, to meet higher healthcare standards is putting pressure on smaller nursing homes of 40 beds or less, many of which are run by families or voluntary groups.

From 2018 up to the end of last year, 29 nursing homes with fewer than 40 beds had closed. Increases in electricity and gas bills this year have put nursing homes under further pressure.

The sector has complained that State funding models, including the Fair Deal scheme which subsidises private nursing home care, falls short in helping care facilities cover their costs.

Mr Daly said his organisation has been warning the Government since the start of the year of multiple closures because fees were not covering the cost of care.

“The closures are a direct result of the underfunding of the sector, which has been highlighted by a number of government reports and reviews,” he said.

“The ongoing crisis has come against a backdrop of underfunding in the context of the increased complexity and cost of care.”

He called on the Government to implement “fit-for-purpose Fair Deal pricing to place nursing home care on a sustainable footing”.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent