Written Answers. - Private Nursing Homes.

Dick Spring


84 Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will give details of the per capita difference in the cost to the State between accommodating older persons in private nursing homes instead of health board nursing homes; the long-term plans, if any, he has to provide capital funding to meet the growing demand for the latter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1963/99]

Under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, health boards pay subventions towards the cost of maintaining older persons in private nursing homes. The rate of subvention, which is intended as a contribution rather than meeting the full cost of care, is £70, £95 and £120 per week depending on whether the older person is assessed as being of medium, high or maximum dependency. The cost of maintaining an older person in a private nursing home is not generally comparable to that of a health board long-stay nursing unit. Health board homes provide a range of ancillary services such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy, etc., with a wider range of staff employed. Such services are not generally provided in the private nursing home sector. In general, patients admitted to public nursing units tend to be more dependent, thus requiring a greater level of nursing care. The cost in public nursing units or long-stay hospitals vary considerably, from high-dependency units such as South Circular Road, Dublin, at £402 per week or St. Mary's, Mullingar at £410 per week, to less dependent units such as Edenderry at £288 per week. These are gross figures, from which an old age pension contribution can normally be deducted.

Bearing in mind the demographic trends, I am well aware of the need to increase the supply of public long-stay nursing facilities for older people. The capital allocation to services for older people has been doubled from £7 million in 1997 to £14 million in 1998. Several new community nursing units have been opened in recent years and another one will open at St. Clare's, Ballymun, in the next month or two. New units are under construction at Clonmel, 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.