No increased payments for nursing home scheme, Minister insists

Kathleen Lynch promises existing Fair Deal contributions will not be raised

Older people will not have to pay more to bridge funding gaps in the Fair Deal nursing scheme, Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch has promised. .Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Older people will not have to pay more to bridge funding gaps in the Fair Deal nursing scheme, Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch has promised. .Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Older people will not have to pay more to bridge funding gaps in the Fair Deal nursing scheme, Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch has promised.

Ms Lynch said the existing contribution of up to 80 per cent of a person’s assessable income and 7.5 per cent of the value of assets would not change even when the scheme is reformed.

Speaking at the Oireachtas health committee on Thursday, Ms Lynch indicated only some of the additional funding needed for the scheme would come from the public purse. “The notion that you would pay €260-290 for a service costing anything up to €1,200 is unsustainable,” she TDs.

Today, however, she said of the existing contributions “that’s not going to change” and indicated that the existing budget could be spent in a more productive way.

A long-awaited internal review of the scheme, which was promised in the Programme for Government, will be completed next week, she told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio.

Ms Lynch said she wanted the scheme to become “demand-led”. “Our medical card system is a demand-led scheme, our social welfare payments are a demand-led scheme; if you qualify, you will get the drugs refund scheme, if you qualify after the assessment you will get it.”

“So there is a budget but it is a budget that can run over, but with Fair Deal it is capped and if you run out of money, you run out of money.

“What I’m saying to you is that as the Minister responsible I can tell you now it is not in relation to increasing the contribution from the person in need of the service because the good thing about this scheme is that it is accessible to everyone.”

Speaking at the committee, HSE director general Tony O’Brien issued a stark warning about the pressure the scheme is under, and the impact this is having on the wider health service. Describing Fair Deal as the “Achilles heel” of system, he said delays in accessing it were putting patients’ health at risk.

Unless extra funding is found, the waiting list for the scheme will grow to 2,200 people by the end of the year, while waiting times will rise to 18-20 weeks, he told the Oireachtas health committee.

The additional €25 million funding boost for the scheme provided in the Budget will suffice to keep waiting times down at the current level of 11 weeks only until the end of this month, he warned.

Age Action welcomed the clarification from Ms Lynch. Hoewever it said it remained concerned “ about the funding of the scheme and the impact this is having on vulnerable older people awaiting a nursing home bed.”

Age action said older people waiting in the community were being “ inadequately supported by the State.”. The advocacy organisation said it head dealt with “the case of an incontinent older man who was told he could only receive a maximum of three incontinence pads per day from the HSE.”

“Such inadequate support for vulnerable people in the community is not only uncaring and unhelpful, but in many cases will directly contribute to the person’s need to be admitted to a nursing home,” director of advocacy Eamon Timmins said.