O'Reilly criticised over 'fair deal' speech

 

OMBUDSMAN EMILY O’Reilly has been rebuked by Minister for Health Mary Harney for comments at the MacGill Summer School on the “fair deal” Nursing Home Support Scheme, which a spokesman for the Minister described as “prejudicial and wrong”.

Ms O’Reilly spoke at length yesterday at the summer school on a report she is due to publish on the performance of the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) in caring for the elderly.

Ms Harney’s spokesman said: “The Minister has noted that the ombudsman has chosen to refer in a speech and on radio to a report she intends to publish, when she has only just sent extracts of the report to the Minister inviting comments by August 16th.

“The Minister has to question the point of being asked for comments on extracts of a report, not even the full report, when the ombudsman chooses to make a speech about it.”

As regards Ms O’Reilly’s comments on the “fair deal” scheme, the spokesman said they were “prejudicial and wrong insofar as they suggest a policy of so-called ‘creeping privatisation’.”

As part of a series of MacGill lectures entitled The Republic I Want to See, Ms O’Reilly told the summer school in Glenties, Co Donegal, that the system of long-term care for the elderly was largely chaotic, with many people confused about their rights and entitlements, and subject to years of stress and crippling expense.

Although the newly-introduced “fair deal” scheme would improve things for many people, what had effectively happened was that the State now believed it had no further responsibility in this area.

Ms O’Reilly said she would shortly publish an investigation into the operation of this sector over the last number of years by the Department of Health and the HSE.

“It will tell of a largely chaotic ad hoc system in which many people were not alone confused about their rights and entitlements but also suffered years of stress and crippling expense because of the deliberate failure of the system to clarify their rights to public care let alone provide for them.”

She said one man, 75 years of age, rented out his home to pay for private care for his mother while he rented a room from his friends.

“Women spoke of the stress of coping with their own children as well as with an elderly parent, scraping together hundreds of euro every week to meet exorbitant private nursing home fees.”

She added: “I am aware that the new system – the so-called fair deal system, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme – will make things a lot clearer and a lot better for very many people, but as my investigation will point out what has effectively happened through the new legislation is that the State believes it has now divested itself of the responsibility to provide nursing home care.”