Dáil Éireann - Volume 346 - 30 November, 1983

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Residential Care for Elderly.

11. Mr. De Rossa asked the Minister for Health if he has any plans to change the system of payments by the State for elderly people in private nursing homes or old people's homes.

Mr. B. Desmond: Exchequer assistance towards the cost of services provided for elderly people in private nursing homes is at present provided by means of payments by health boards based on approved rates of contribution. It is not proposed to change this system.

The rates of contributions were increased to their present levels with effect from 1 July 1983. The question of a further increase during 1984 will be considered in the light of the overall resources available for health services for that year.

Mr. De Rossa: The level of the present subvention for patients in private nursing homes is such that in many cases old people have had to give up their entire pensions to pay the balance due to the homes leaving them no money at all to provide clothing for themselves. In the light of that does the Minister not think that there is a strong case for increasing the subvention?

Mr. B. Desmond: The Deputy will know that the provision of such care is very costly. In long-stay geriatric hospitals the cost is about £27 per day and in the health board welfare homes it averages about £14 per day. I agree that many old people in private homes have very limited means, although the charges in some homes can range upwards from £90 per week. A contribution of £5.25 per day is made by the health boards for [700] category C homes and £5.15 per day for category D homes. Undoubtedly in the case of some patients this leads to hardship and that means there must be special care in the matter of allocations by the Department. The contribution was increased in July 1982. A number of people put their parents or other relatives into such homes. Admittedly those people give up their pensions, but very often thereafter they are not seen by those who put them into the homes. In a country that professes outstanding Christianity I have received a substantial volume of representations about people who are not prepared to make any contributions towards the mother or father or brother or sister who is in such a home. They expect the Eastern Health Board to bear the whole cost. I make a plea to such people to make some kind of contribution towards the care of the elderly, the disabled and the handicapped. It cannot be a total health board responsibility. Unfortunately, people are left in such homes and even if they will not pay, their relatives might at least visit them.

Mr. De Rossa: That is all very well but there are circumstances in which there is no other course open to relatives. In many cases the old people have not got any relatives. Therefore, will the Minister consider providing some additional assistance for people in those circumstances? Many of those people have not got any spare money with vhich to buy clothing?

Mr. B. Desmond: I will be examining this entire matter when considering the Estimate for the Department. I would point out that there were increases in July 1983, reasonably substantial increases in the context of general increases.