Nursing homes squeeze elderly for €17m ‘extras’
NURSING homes are charging elderly residents €16.9m a year in extra fees for activities on top of the millions in public money they are paid through the Fair Deal scheme, a Sunday Independent investigation reveals.
An undercover investigation into more than 330 private and voluntary nursing homes found that more than two thirds of nursing homes quoted additional charges that ranged from €1 a day in some homes to as much as €325 a week or €16,900 a year in one upmarket facility in South Dublin.
A further third of nursing homes — most from outside the city — said they did not charge additional fees for social activities and services. Ten nursing homes did not disclose their fees for various reasons.
The most detailed examination yet of nursing homes discloses for the first time the scale of private and voluntary operators who are quoting additional charges, and how much money they are estimated to be making on these additions.
Our investigation follows months of controversy over the contentious extra charges imposed by nursing homes, at a time when the entire system for funding nursing home care is under review.
The nursing homes that charge the highest level of fees are concentrated in Dublin. The most expensive home, in terms of additional fees charged, is Leeson Park in Dublin 6, where service fees start at €125 a week for residents in a shared room, and €325 for a resident in a single room. The nursing home, operated by Silver Stream Health Care Group, offers a menu of additional services in its brochure that include such social activities such as bridge, choir and physiotherapy assessments.
The second most expensive is Kinvara House Nursing Home in Bray, where the additional fee is €175 per week. Several nursing homes charge €100 a week in service charges, including Mount Hybla in West Dublin and Altadore in South Dublin.
Justin Moran of Age Action Ireland said: “We need to see a strong response from the Government. The figures show enormous variation between the figures charged in different parts of the country.”
The Sunday Independent can also reveal that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is planning on drawing up new guidelines for prices for services charged by nursing homes.
In a statement the authority said the “project” will “examine standard term contracts in residential care services for older people. The purpose of the project is to develop a set of guidelines for providers of residential care services to older people and consumers of those services”.
The guidelines will set out the obligations and respon-
sibilities placed on service providers in the sector under the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995 (Regulations).
Stephen McMahon, of Patient Focus, said: “The Sunday Independent findings show that a significant number of nursing homes are not charging additional fees. It raises the question why these other nursing homes are charging as much as €325 a week. How some homes are not charging a cent for the social activity services while others are charging up to €15,000 a year.”
A statement said Leeson Park’s fees are disclosed and agreed in advance with res- idents. “While this nursing home has commanded a higher premium since it was established, its level of fees have not increased since 2008,” the statement said.
The operators of Kinvara House Nursing Home said it is open about its fees and they are disclosed in full to residents in advance: “They reflect the very high standard of care and service we provide. We have a high level of staff. We charge a very fair fee for the quality of care and level of service we provide.”
Tadgh Daly, the chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, said: “This [overall] figure represents the charges for a range of goods and services provided to residents. The fees are agreed with resi- dents in advance and included in their contracts of care. They are fully transparent.”
“This exercise shows that nursing homes are disclosing their fees, and I would take issue with the notion that this information is not transparent,” he added.
The Sunday Independent calculated the scale of extra charges at €16.9m by taking the ratio of Fair Deal residents in all private and voluntary nursing homes and applying it to the more than 330 nursing homes that feature in our investigation.
Of 23,000 residents in Ireland’s private and voluntary nursing homes, some 18,000 are in the Fair Deal scheme.