I move amendment No. 6:
In page 11, after line 45, to insert the following:
"(5) It is a function of the Executive to assess the adequacy of resources provided under subsection (4) and to report thereon to the Houses of the Oireachtas.”.
This is an important amendment which I intend to press if the Minister of State is unable to accept it. It states: "It is a function of the Executive to assess the adequacy of resources provided under subsection (4) and to report thereon to the Houses of the Oireachtas.” Basically, a limited amount of money is being set aside for the purposes of this legislation. We have already been told how much is being set aside this year and the scheme is being introduced in September, or at least the autumn. It may be adequate for the remainder of this year but we have no idea how much money will be set aside next year, or in future years.
While I am not allowed to table an amendment that would be a charge on the Exchequer, this amendment is as strong as I can make it. It seeks to impose an obligation on the HSE to inform the Houses of the Oireachtas if there is not adequate funding to pay for people in nursing homes who qualify under the scheme. If there is not enough money, we shall end up at some stage in the year with the money gone and people having an entitlement under the scheme, which is a frightening prospect for elderly people and their families. I alluded on Committee Stage to the types of schemes being implemented by local authorities where a house can be adapted to meet the needs of an elderly or disabled person. We all know from dealing with our respective local authorities that the money runs out. No matter how much a grab rail for a shower or a ramp for a wheelchair is needed or whatever, these services will not be available if the money is gone.
I do not want enshrined in this legislation the principle that somebody in an acute bed qualifies under the provisions of the Bill but there is no place to go because of a lack of funding with the result that the family cannot afford to pay for the nursing home. In all parts of the country long-stay public beds are being closed. Beds for old people in publicly run hospitals are being closed. In my constituency, the Abbey ward in St. Camillus's hospital would have been closed were it not for nurses refusing to co-operate. There are many other cases such as this around the country.
My fear is that we shall see far fewer public beds available and more and more dependence on the private sector, which has been the trend in recent years. If the money runs out there is no way the private sector will care for people if there is not means of payment. Many families have been struggling already with the gap between the subventions as they currently exist — even with the top-up subvention, plus the pension and any moneys families can scrape together — and the actual cost of the nursing homes. The intention in this legislation is to bridge that gap, but it will be resource capped and there is not even a mechanism for the HSE to inform the Oireachtas, which has the power to introduce a supplementary Estimate to provide more money, as required. This is not provided for in the legislation and it is what my amendment is seeking to do. At least then the House could be told if there was a shortage of money and the Government of the day could then introduce some mechanism for providing it.
I hold strong views on this aspect. It is one of the areas of concern to the various representative organisations we have met. There is a weakness in the legislation that has not, perhaps, been as publicly aired as some other aspects. At a time when there is a shortage of public funds — I realise resources are limited — we must have a mechanism whereby if it is found there are not sufficient resources for this scheme in any given year, there must be a mechanism for bringing this to the attention of the Legislature so that something may be done about it.