Independent TD for Offaly, Carol Nolan, has said that she is to write to the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) asking his office to immediately investigate claims that nursing home residents in HSE-run facilities in Laois and Offaly are being charged almost 200% above the cost of private and voluntary nursing home care.
Deputy Nolan was speaking after it emerged that within Laois, the average cost of a week’s care in the three HSE operated nursing homes is €2,720, as opposed to €910 in four private and voluntary nursing homes – a 199% cost differential.
"The situation is just as concerning for nursing home residents in Offaly; where Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) claim families are paying up to 107% above the private and voluntary sector fee," Nolan said.
"NHI also claims that within neighbouring Westmeath the differential is 135% - with two HSE operated nursing homes averaging €1,899 per week as opposed to average €808 for the 12 private voluntary providers."
“The publication of these comparative fees demonstrate that the HSE is either wilfully engaged in the financial exploitation of elderly people or it is utterly indifferent to the appropriate market price for nursing home care," Carol continued.
"Either eventuality is unsustainable and demands answers. It is for that reason that I will write to the C&AG, whose statutory remit is to improve the use of public money and resources and strengthen public accountability."
"We must have accountability on this matter from the HSE especially in light of the fact that as I highlighted recently, the operational reform of the entire Fair Deal Scheme and the broadening of its services is already under threat."
"In the legal profession, if a solicitor or barrister charges exorbitant and unjustifiable fees, then the matter can be referred to the Taxing Master who provides an independent and impartial assessment of legal costs and recommendations to refund fees," Nolan claimed.
"The same should happen here. If farming families, or any family for that matter, has been the victim of profiteering by the HSE then they should be immediately reimbursed,” concluded Deputy Nolan.