The Ombudsman yesterday published Who Cares? An Investigation into the Right to Nursing Home Care in Ireland. The gist of the Report is that the State is failing in its legal obligations to older people in need of nursing home care. Moreover, the Ombudsman was sharply critical of the refusal of the Government and State agencies to co-operate with her inquiry. However, in today’s Irish Times, the Minister for Health Mary Harney strongly rejected that criticism, saying the Attorney General had advised the that the Ombudsman was overstepping her mandate. On the other hand, an opposition spokesperson said the Report showed that the Government had failed older people, and Report has been very warmly welcomed by Age Action (a charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people in Ireland):
Age Action is anxious that there is clarity about the eligibility and entitlements of older people, and that the rights of older people are protected … It is therefore timely that the Ombudsman’s investigation is published.
“It’s déjà vu all over again“. We have been here before. From 1976 to 2004, the State had invalidly charged many older people for care in public nursing homes. When this came to light, the Government attempted to legislate away any claims to recover such invalid charges. However, the Supreme Court struck that provision down on constitutional grounds, and no such limitation appeared in the subsequent legislation enacted in 2005 providing for the validity of such charges thereafter. Yesterday’s Report considers the related problem of older people who couldn’t access public nursing home care, and were forced to pay for private nursing home care instead. The whole issue is now substantially governed by the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act, 2009 (also here), which the Department says represents a Fair Deal for older people. But that is for the present and the future; it doesn’t address the problems in the past which are the focus of the yesterday’s Report.
The Report was formally submitted to the Dáil and Seanad yesterday in accordance with section 6(7) of the Ombudsman Act, 1980 (also here); and it concerns an investigation by the Ombudsman based on more than 1,000 individual complaints made, since 1985, on behalf of older people who were unable to get the long-term nursing home care to which they were entitled from their health boards or, latterly, the Health Service Executive (HSE). (more…)