Nursing home contracts should be examined carefully, warns Ombudsman

Fees for social activities for immobile resident dropped following complaint

Under the Fair Deal scheme, a resident pays 80 per cent of his or her income, and 7.5 per cent of the value of any assets, toward the cost of upkeep in a private nursing home and the State pays the balance.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Under the Fair Deal scheme, a resident pays 80 per cent of his or her income, and 7.5 per cent of the value of any assets, toward the cost of upkeep in a private nursing home and the State pays the balance. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Contracts signed on admission to nursing homes, by residents or their carers, should be examined carefully for extra charges, the Ombudsman’s Office has warned.

It has also said if the “Fair Deal” nursing home is unwilling to resolve a dispute over fees, residents and their families can complain to the Ombudsman.

The comments came after a complaint about charges was resolved by Ombudsman Peter Tyndall.

A spokesman for the Ombudsman’s Office said the complaint involved a person who was physically incapable of taking part in social activities, but had signed a contract which included fees for them. Fairness indicated they should not be charged if they could not take part.

“We spoke to the nursing home in question and they agreed in future, anyone who can’t take part in social programmes only has to pay a nominal charge towards it.”

He said the resolution did not set a precedent, but if someone came to them in similar circumstances they would probably come to the same conclusion.

Under the Fair Deal scheme, a resident pays 80 per cent of his or her income, and 7.5 per cent of the value of any assets, toward the cost of upkeep in a private nursing home and the State pays the balance.

Additional services

But the payment does not include additional services, such as social programmes, therapies, ophthalmic and dental services and transport.

The additional fees must be paid separately and are part of the contract signed prior to entering a nursing home.

The Ombudsman has had the power to examine complaints about private nursing homes since late 2015. Last year, it received 30 such complaints and five related to additional charges.

Justin Moran, of charity Age Action, said some people are being priced out of the market because of additional fees.

“If you are an older person just on the State pension, you have to pay 80 per cent of your income as part of the Fair Deal scheme,” he said.

“That only leaves you with a small amount and if you are trying to pay an additional fee of €50 or €60 a week you are going to be in financial difficulties very quickly.”

He also said there was a lack of transparency about how fees are charged and structured, and it caused a great deal of stress for a lot of families.

Tadhg Daly, a spokesman for Nursing Homes Ireland, said nursing homes are required by law to provide services that are explicitly not included in the Fair Deal scheme. He said additional fees are clear in the contracts provided, which are looked at by the Health Information and Quality Authority on a regular basis.

“Everything is transparent, to suggest otherwise is disingenuous,” he said.