Minister cannot continue to ‘bury head in sand’ on older people’s care

Media reports that HIQA will not grant an amnesty for the State’s dated nursing home accommodation for older people highlights the urgent necessity to establish a Forum on Long Term Residential Care, according to Nursing Homes Ireland.

HIQA’s confirmation flies in the face of Minister of State for Older People Kathleen Lynch’s comments when she informed the media on 15th July that the Department of Health “can negotiate” with HIQA in respect of the 2015 deadline for the physical environment nursing home standards. Her comments were made arising from a leaked and still unpublished report which revealed the State will be required to invest hundreds of millions to ensure public nursing units can meet the 2015 physical environment regulatory requirements. The report stated only ten of the existing 100+ public nursing homes are in a position to meet the 2015 deadline.

HIQA today has said it remains fully committed to implementation of the 2015 National Quality Standards deadline and will not entertain negotiation in respect of issues surrounding compliance. It is vital that HIQA apply the regulations equally to all nursing homes, be they public, private or voluntary.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO: “HIQA has now clearly stated it will not negotiate with the public sector arising from its inability to meet the 2015 deadline. The HSE has publicly stated up to €1.7 billion will have to be invested by the State if it wishes to maintain its current level of public sector nursing home provision at 20%. HIQA’s stance means only ten of the State-owned 100 plus public nursing homes will stay open without a major capital investment programme by the State within a year. Even if the €1.7 billion was invested, and in our view that would not be the best use of scarce State resources, this will only maintain the status quo in respect of public nursing homes. It is imperative that the report on the viability of public nursing homes is published without further delay.

“HIQA’s position that there will be no negotiation with the State increases the pressure on the Government on a key issue concerning healthcare provision. Significant pressures have also been brought to bear on NHI members to undertake works necessary to comply with these standards. The Minister must now face up to reality. Minister Lynch has to stop burying her head in the sand in respect of the critical issue of long-term care for older people and establish a Forum to address the growing healthcare demands of our ageing population and to plan accordingly. The taxpayer is faced with up to a €2 billion bill to maintain public sector provision but this will still leave a shortfall of 11,000 places for residential nursing home care in the coming years.

“Only through engagement with the private and voluntary nursing home sector can the considerable shortfall in capacity for long-term residential care be addressed. With the right stimulus package which NHI has proposed to Ministers Howlin and Noonan can the sector meet our ageing population’s requirement for such care and in turn create up to 10,000 sustainable jobs in Irish communities.

Recently Minister Lynch revealed in Dáil Éireann 1,500+ persons are awaiting the support of Fair Deal. A Forum on Long Term Residential Care is an imperative to bring stakeholders together to plan appropriately. HIQA’s stance makes this critical immediately.”