Written Answers. - Nursing Home Care.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

620 Ms Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans, if any, he has to address the demand for nursing home care for the elderly; the plans, if any, he has to allow the private sector to meet the demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2100/99]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

621 Ms Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans, if any, he has to increase the subvention paid towards the cost of nursing home care in view of the fact that it can cost up to £450 a week to have a person cared for in a home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2101/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 620 and 621 together.

Under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 the health boards provide subventions to assist persons in meeting the costs of nursing home care, however, it was never intended to meet the full costs involved.

Since coming into office, this Government has provided significant additional resources for the nursing home subventions scheme. More than £17 million was provided for the scheme in the Estimates for 1998. Additional funding of £6.9 million was provided in the Supplementary Estimate for 1998. A further £9 million was allocated to health boards this year to meet,inter alia, increased demand for nursing home subventions, the additional costs arising from increased dependency levels and the change in the regulations which applies from 1 January 1999. This regulation removes the provision which allowed health boards to assess the capacity of adult sons and-or daughters over 21 years of age to contribute towards the cost of nursing home care of their parent. The cost of this change alone is estimated at about £2 million per annum. The additional funding provided this year brings the total amount of funding available for the scheme to £33 million.

The budget allocation for older people includes a sum of £1.45 million which will enable a new 50-bed community nursing unit at St. Clare's, Ballymun, to be opened this year, together with a new 27-bed unit in Clonmel. In addition, the full year costs of contracting an additional 65 nursing home beds is being allocated to the Eastern Health Board, which will help to alleviate the pressure on acute hospital beds in the major general hospitals in Dublin.

The need to develop better health and other support services for older people is regarded as a priority by this Government. An indication or our commitment to improving services for older people during our term of office can be seen in the fact that we have doubled the capital allocation to services for older people, from £7 million in 1997 to £14 million in 1998. New community nursing units are under construction at Achill and Killybegs. Another important aspect of the capital programme is to replace old, unsatisfactory accommodation with new, modern facilities and such work has started, or is being planned, at locations such as Birr, Cavan and Enniscorthy.
The Deputy may also wish to note that my colleague, the Minister for Finance, introduced changes regarding capital allowances for nursing homes in the Finance Act, 1998, to encourage investment in the private nursing home sector.