A breakaway group of small, family-run nursing homes has been formed to represent the interests of care homes most at risk of closure due to rising costs and regulatory pressures.
The group, known as The Alliance and describing itself as a “support network” for nursing homes rather than a membership body, claims Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), the representative body for private nursing homes, cannot represent the interests of smaller homes along with those of large operators, as they are not facing the same risks.
Shane Scanlan, the group’s spokesman and a director of nursing at a family-owned nursing home in Co Kerry, said smaller, family-owned nursing homes “just wanted representation for ourselves” given that most closures in the past year had been of businesses at that end of the sector.
Last year, 18 small, private nursing homes, many of them family-run, said they were closing, with the loss of 545 beds. Most blamed increased overheads and costly, higher regulatory demands.
Mr Scanlan said NHI’s membership included 15 large multi-home operators representing 40 per cent of the sector, which were not facing the same financial pressures.
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He likened the split in the sector to how Ireland’s vintners are represented by two groups, with one representing publicans in Dublin and the other those outside the capital.
“We need to represent ourselves from other types of nursing homes if we are going to ensure our long-term viability,” he said.
The number of nursing homes in the group has risen to 28 since it was formed last December.
“We felt we were the group at risk – and still at risk – and felt the narrative from NHI that everyone is at risk was ridiculous. We don’t have the economies of scale of Dublin-based nursing homes. Their future is secure, and how they are operating at present they are not at risk,” he said.
NHI’s chief executive Tadhg Daly declined to comment on the formation of the new group.
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The Alliance has met a number of elected representatives, including the group of Rural Independent TDs.
Mr Scanlan called for “a full restructuring” of the State’s Fair Deal subsidy model, moving from a maximum price model to a cost-of-care model for individual residents.
Nursing homes have long complained about how publicly owned and operated nursing homes operate to a higher subsidised funding model, with the Fair Deal scheme paying lower weekly subsidies to private nursing homes and leaving the sector struggling against rising costs.