A major crisis is looming in the provision of nursing home care for older persons, according to Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI). A spokesperson for the NHI, the organisation representing the private and voluntary homes sector, described Department of Health estimates that more than 2,000 persons will be waiting for a nursing home place by the end of 2013, as very worrying. The waiting time for funding approval for a nursing home place under the Fair Deal scheme is also set to rise to 17 weeks according Department officials. This situation has arisen after the Department changes the rules for the scheme for a short period earlier this year from ‘first-come first-served” to a system where patients were transferred from hospitals.
But what about Home Care. There is a significant proportion of persons currently in nursing homes who, with the right support, could be cared for in their own homes. Reports have shown that 30% of people in nursing homes would not need to reside there if the relevant care was provided in a home scenario. So surely with this pressure on Nursing Homes, these beds must be kept for those that really require this type of care. With Ireland having 35% more persons per head of population in nursing homes than the EU average, there is a reasonable assumption that one third of fair deal patients could be better off in terms of well-being if they remained in their home, until dependency requirements increase. This is a genuine and real issue and that is why the organisation that Be Independent Home Care are part of the HCCI are pushing for regulation. It is vitally important that HIQA is given the statutory powers to regulate all areas of the home care sector as a matter of urgency. In the absence of State regulation HCCI requires its members to adhere to a code of conduct based on international best practice guidelines. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all operators, and that is why legislation is so urgently needed.