Nursing home residents ‘drained’ of pension due to top-up charges – complaint
• 3h ago
Elderly nursing home residents are being “drained” of what is left of their pension by having to pay top-up charges of over €3,600 a year, according to unpublished complaints.
One person contacting Hiqa said an elderly relative staying at a nursing home pays €70 a week in a supplementary charge. Stock photo: Getty Images© Desk Prod
The additional charges are being levied on top of Fair Deal contributions.
The ongoing grievances by private nursing home residents and their relatives are revealed in correspondence to the watchdog Hiqa.
One person said an elderly relative pays €70 a week in a supplementary charge and this “drains their pension, leaving them with no spending money”.
They must pay for chiropody services, toiletries and clothes out of what’s left.
It was originally called an “activities charge” but was changed to “supplementary charge” because residents who had to stay in bed all day could not avail of them, the complaint released under Freedom of Information claimed.
Another said a resident with a medical card, entitled to free GP care, is paying €160 a month for the nursing home’s contracted doctor.
And one complainant cited a €60-a-week service charge to include physiotherapy assessment, falls prevention systems and occupational therapy.
A major concern is that the charges are imposed on residents whether they use the services or not.
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A resident pays an extra €100 a month while “bingo and quizzes are done by staff members and there is no activities co-ordinator”.
A further complaint said a resident’s family saw the charge rise from €30 to €35 a week with the only notification arriving by email.
One family had to pay €300 for a sling to attach to a hoist. The resident received three haircuts in two months which they felt was excessive given they used to have their hair cut every three months.
A relative said they felt they were being “ripped off” by the home with constant invoices.
Nursing homes have insisted they have no choice but to levy the charges because Fair Deal covers only the basics and the extra out-of-pocket charges are needed to cover therapies, activities and hairdressing, the cost of paying a priest to say mass, give a GP a retainer, and supply toiletries and newspapers.
Tadhg Daly, of Nursing Homes Ireland, said “a very narrow and limited definition of goods and services have been in effect since the inception of the scheme in 2009”.
“Services expressly excluded to support healthcare and daily living needs are subject to fees,” he said. “All fees are set out in the contract for care agreed between the resident or their representatives and the nursing home. Nursing Homes Ireland has a guide to charges on the website.”
The Department of Health has long promised action but no concrete plans have emerged. A spokesman said the department is “currently reviewing the available evidence and considering various policy options in relation to additional nursing home charges”.
The department does not currently hold data on the charges.
The nursing home must agree a contract on admission detailing the services covered by the additional fees. Residents should never pay for services not set out in the document, he said.
He said when the Fair Deal scheme was set up, medications and aids covered under existing state schemes were not included because this would effectively “involve effectively paying twice for the same service”.
Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler has said there are 22,613 people living in nursing homes receiving support under Fair Deal. The cost of residential care to the State was €1.4bn last year and residents in their contributions paid €350m.
She said: “I am conscious that small and voluntary nursing homes are facing challenges at the moment. In November, I announced the €10m temporary inflation payments scheme to alleviate the pressures faced by nursing homes as a result of increasing energy prices.”