Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 17 November, 2004
Written Answers. - Nursing Home Charges.
Mr. Haughey Mr. Haughey
 138. Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, according to recent reports, health boards in some cases have charged for the cost of long-term nursing home care when they should not have done so; if persons with medical cards should not have been charged; if refunds will be paid in these cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28788/04]
Ms Harney Ms Harney
Ms Harney: Eligibility for health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically eligible for a medical card. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. It is open to all persons to apply to the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.
However, central to our system of publicly funded long-term care is the principle that it is fair and reasonable that those who can afford to contribute to the cost of their long stay care should do so. The health strategy reinforces this point and states:
It is recognised that quality care is expensive and that the bulk of the cost of providing a high standard of quality care should be borne by the exchequer. Nonetheless, it is fair that all those in receipt of publicly provided residential long-term care should make some payment towards accommodation and daily living costs, if they can afford to do so, just as they would if they were living in the community. This principle supports the aim to provide as high quality a service as possible and to make the most equitable use of resources and thus to help maximise the availability of these services.
The current position reflects this approach.
Under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990, health boards may pay a subvention to assist a person in meeting the cost of private nursing home care. The Department of Health and Children has established a working group to review the operation and administration of the nursing home subvention scheme.
The health strategy, Quality and Fairness — A Health System for You, acknowledges the need to clarify and simplify eligibility arrangements and sets down a commitment to introduce new legislation to provide for the introduction of clear statutory provisions on entitlement and eligibility. A review of all existing legislation in this area has been carried out in my Department which will  inform the approach to the drafting of new legislation in this area. As part of this exercise, my Department will be attempting to resolve the current differences in approach in the consideration of individuals’ ability to pay under the various regulations in this area.
Arising from concerns in relation to the current practice of charging for long-stay care in health board institutions, this matter is being examined having regard to advice from the Office of the Attorney General with a view to clarification of the situation at an early date.
Dáil Éireann 592 Written Answers. Nursing Home Charges.