Government may have to provide €17m deal for Fair Deal

HSE says delays for entry to the scheme have risen to an average of six or seven weeks

Fair Deal: Jim Daly, Minister of State with responsibilty for older people, has told the Department of Health extra funding needs to come from the Department of Public Expenditure in order to ensure the four-week wait-time target is met.

Fair Deal: Jim Daly, Minister of State with responsibilty for older people, has told the Department of Health extra funding needs to come from the Department of Public Expenditure in order to ensure the four-week wait-time target is met.

 

The Government may have to provide a €17 million bailout for Fair Deal to avert growing delays in accessing the scheme for funding nursing home places.

Waiting times for entry to the scheme have risen to an average six or seven weeks, the HSE said yesterday, well above the normal four weeks.

However, delays of up to six months have been reported by nursing home owners, who say many older people are languishing at home or in hospital while their applications are processed.

A Nursing Homes Ireland survey yesterday reported delays of six months for patients seeking Fair Deal funding in Co Galway, four months in Co Mayo and three months in Co Kilkenny.

The HSE said it operates a single national waiting list and insisted there were no variances nationally.

In order to prevent waiting times spiralling further, the Minister of State with responsibilty for older people, Jim Daly, has told officials in the Department of Health that extra funding needs to come from the Department of Public Expenditure in order to ensure the four-week wait-time target is met.

Original estimate

In a letter obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Daly acknowledged efficiencies secured by health officials had reduced the additional funding required from an original estimate of €30 million. He suggested about €17 million would be needed.

The financial problems at Fair Deal come as official correspondence reveals home support services – another main plank in the Government’s policy for older people – is also running out of money.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid has told his board in a confidential memo it did not have sufficient money to keep up with demand and there were now more than 6,000 people waiting for funding for home-support services.

The State currently pays nearly €450 million to provide home supports such as home helps to about 53,000 people.

Mr Daly has said the Government was “actively considering” the introduction of a co-payment system to facilitate an expansion of services. This could see a means test being put in place such as applies for the Fair Deal scheme and some people having to pay towards the cost.

Mr Daly wrote to his officials in mid-July, saying more money was needed from the exchequer to allow Fair Deal to continue to operate in line with Government policy.

He expressed frustration at “protracted ongoing communications “ between the Department of Health and the HSE over funding for Fair Deal for the remainder of the year.

‘Concerned’

“I remain concerned, however, that the estimated number of leavers from the scheme is significantly off forecast, and it appears clear to me that additional funding needed to be requested from the Department of Public Expenditure to ensure that the HSE can continue to fulfil the commitments made in the Programme for Government.”

The Fair Deal scheme will this year receive just under €1 billion from the exchequer to provide nursing-home care for about 23,000 people.

However from the start there were concerns within the HSE that more money would be needed. The current financial problems also stem from the number of people leaving the scheme this year – either voluntarily or as a result of their death – being fewer than anticipated.

Fair Deal, also known as the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, has a budget allocation of €999 million for 2019 and supports about 23,000 people at any one time.