Nursing home wanted to discharge elderly woman over care bill arrears
High court refused permission for discharge and asked home to be ‘a bit patient’ over €10,150 bill
The nursing home had complained of arrears which at one stage were some €28,000 but had been cut to about €10,150. Her care costs are €350 weekly, plus €46 expenses to meet hairdressing and other needs, it said.
The woman, in her eighties and a ward of court since Spring 2017, requires to be hoisted and needs two carers to look after her and it would be difficult to find an alternative public nursing home facility for her, the court heard.
The nursing home which cannot be identified for legal reasons had complained of arrears which at one stage were some €28,000 but had been cut to about €10,150. Her care costs are €350 weekly, plus €46 expenses to meet hairdressing and other needs, it said.
The home is a business which cannot be expected to continue to incur such costs, its counsel said. It wanted to be permitted to discharge her and for the HSE to seek an alternative public facility.
Refusing to permit her discharge, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said the nursing home should be “a bit patient” and wait for completion of legal steps to realise the woman’s interest in her late husband’s estate which was “a mess”.
The woman has €10,300 left in cash funds out of which €6,000 will be paid towards reducing the current arrears of €10,150 to €4,000, he directed.
Her weekly care costs will be paid for out of the remaining €4,000 so the arrears as of now will be just over €4,000, he said.
It could be said, because the nursing home is a business, it should be entitled to the discharge order even if one cent was owed to it, he also said.
If this matter was looked at “solely in commercial terms”, that would be so but the court must look to the woman’s care.
Any company incurred risk when it goes into business and he was sure other nursing homes, because of the nature of their business, have and are experiencing payment arrears.
He was asking the nursing home to be “a bit patient” and wait for the €4,000 and in the interim he would direct weekly payments to it out of the woman’s remaining funds so no further arrears would incur.
The €4,000 sum would be repaid in full once the woman’s late husband’s estate is probated and her legal right share is exercised, he said.
The nursing home company appeared to have the view the court was “some sort of shadow Department of Social Protection” which could “conjure up funds or nursing home placements which don’t exist”, he added.
The court had no funds apart from the woman’s own funds and this unfortunate lady finds herself with a valuable asset on paper which has yet to be realised, he said. To have the arrears cut to about €4,000 was “not unreasonable”.
The judge also said he was sure every nursing home which takes on the care of a patient is dependent to an extent on their ability, or the ability of their family, to pay the liabilities and was also sure liabilities are not unknown. That was one of the risks of running a nursing home.
Earlier, he stressed the arrears were not due to any neglect or default of the general solicitor for wards of court who was doing her best to unravel “the mess” that was the woman’s late husband’s estate.
The woman’s family had not shown any willingness to assist in funding her nursing home care pending the estate issues being sorted out, he was told.