Seanad Éireann - Volume 182 - 02 February, 2006

Nursing Home Services.

[1037]  Mr. Moylan: I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O’Malley, to the House and thank him for coming in to reply to this Adjournment matter, on the need for a 20-bed extension to the age care unit of Riada House, Tullamore, County Offaly. As a former member of the health board the bed issue is important but there were kitchen improvement works and developments in the day care area.

More than 12 months ago there was a problem with the closure of a private nursing home in the area which created huge problems for Offaly patients. The Health Service Executive has been using beds in Mountmellick, County Laois, and Athlone, County Westmeath, for Offaly patients. We have Riada House in Tullamore, Edenderry and a new unit in Birr. The position was reasonably satisfactory until the problem occurred in Rahan. There was then a complete blockage in Edenderry, Mountmellick, Athlone and Birr. There is no spare capacity. A problem arises where a large number of patients who are in the regional hospital in Tullamore should be in step-down facilities or moved elsewhere to allow the hospital work to full capacity.

Given the capital programme for 2006 I ask the Department to give the go-ahead for the extension which has been at architectural planning stage for some time. Such an extension would make an enormous difference to people in the Tullamore area. The Minister of State is well aware of the need for it and I compliment him on the work he is doing around the country in regard to the provision of extra beds for the elderly. While there is a problem it will become serious as time goes on. I look forward to a favourable reply from the Minister of State. I thank him and the Minister, Deputy Harney, for their outstanding work in the health area.

  Mr. T. O’Malley: I am delighted to have the opportunity to answer this question on behalf of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank Senator Moylan for raising this matter on the Adjournment.

It is the Department’s policy to maintain older people in dignity and independence at home in accordance with their wishes and at the same time to provide high-quality residential care for older people when living at home is no longer possible.

The Government’s commitment to the development of a comprehensive range of services for older people has been clearly demonstrated by the significantly increased resources made available in recent years. From 1997 to 2005, inclusive, additional spending on health care services is in excess of €302 million. In 2004, a total of €9.5 million in additional revenue funding was allocated to services for older people and for 2005, this figure was increased to €15.228 million. This funding is being used for a variety of services including the nursing home subvention [1038]scheme, home care grants, the home help service, the elder abuse programme and support to voluntary organisations.

In the budget package announced for 2006, additional revenue funding of €150 million in full year costs was allocated —€110 million in 2006 and an additional €40 million in 2007. The prioritisation of all health capital developments is a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. I have been advised by the HSE that Riada House, Tullamore, County Offaly, is a priority capital development for 2006.

When it is necessary for older people to move into long-term residential care, it is important they have a choice of top-quality nursing home care. To this end, the Government is committed to developing the necessary infrastructure to care for older people and deliver services in the best possible manner. A working group has been established by the Department to develop standards for residential care settings for older people. Membership of the group comprises officials from the Department, the HSE, the social services inspectorate and the Irish Health Services Accreditation Board. The group will commence the development of standards for the inspection of both public and private residential care for older people and, in doing so, will consult with appropriate and interested parties.

The majority of our older people are fit and well and leading full, independent lives. However, where this is no longer the case, the Department is committed to providing high quality long-term residential care. The Government has allocated unprecedented levels of resources to ensure that the care we provide for older people is of the highest possible standard, and an indication of how society values and respects the contribution older people have made in the past and continue to make today.

  Mr. Moylan: I welcome the Minister of State’s statement that Riada House, Tullamore, is a priority for development by the HSE in 2006. I thank him for that and his work in this area.