Simon Harris calls for nursing home clarity on additional charges

Minister for Health raises questions of honesty and transparency in care contracts

An Age Action report has claimed some nursing home residents are being forced to pay up to €100 a week in top-up fees. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

An Age Action report has claimed some nursing home residents are being forced to pay up to €100 a week in top-up fees. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Nursing home owners have been told by Minister for Health Simon Harris to be upfront about add-on charges for residents or else face legislation forcing them to display prices.

Mr Harris has also questioned the honesty and transparency of homes which charge residents for services they did not receive.

He said he hoped to reach agreement with the sector on rules that would require nursing home owners to disclose all charges when a person makes an initial inquiry. “At the moment, when a resident signs a contract with a nursing home, it is almost always after they’ve moved in to it.”

If agreement cannot be reached, the Government reserved the right to legislate on the issue, he warned.

Nursing Homes Ireland said it was standard practice for its members to carry out a full pre-admission assessment of prospective residents at inquiry stage. “This includes assessing the individual’s care needs, as well as outlining the details of all nursing home services and contract charges to prospective residents and their families prior to admission,” said chief executive Tadgh Daly.

Top-up fees

NHI provides members with a “contract for care” template setting out the services to be provided, he added.

An Age Action report published this week claimed some nursing home residents were being forced to pay up to €100 a week in top-up fees, including doctors’ charges when they had a medical card.

Responding to these findings, Mr Harris said the law was clear on what the Fair Deal scheme for nursing home covers. “The issue here is honesty and transparency. If someone receives above and beyond what’s covered, they understand. But if someone is asked to pay for a service they didn’t receive or one that was covered in another way, that is unacceptable.

“People need to know when they pick up the phone what the full picture is, and not to find out after that secret charges are involved. It is upsetting for people when they are charged for services they didn’t received. It’s downright wrong.”

A review of the Fair Deal will be largely completed by the end of this year, he added.