I ask the Minister for Health and Children to clarify matters causing confusion around the operation of the fair deal scheme as it operates with nursing homes and to allay fears that a transition will leave patients and their families without financial cover at that time. Will the Minister clarify the uniformity of operation of the scheme through the HSE? Patients have been told that they will not be covered under the scheme until assessments are complete, and then only from the date of approval, which by implication could cost them six weeks billing, which the patients and families may be unable to meet. Will the Minister give direction in the matter?
I am effectively asking the Minister for Health and Children to clarify the confusion surrounding the operation of the fair deal scheme and to allay fears that the transition from hospital to home will leave patients and their families without financial cover. I am also asking her for clarity and uniformity to be applied in the operation of the scheme by the HSE. Will she confirm that no patient admitted on a doctor's advice will have to wait until the medical assessment before proceeding? If a discharged patient has to be readmitted after four months, will a previous approval be used? This was the case when a patient was readmitted under the subvention scheme. When a patient is admitted as an emergency to a nursing home, will the scheme apply from the time of the emergency, providing an application is lodged on the same day?
Last week families in counties Roscommon and Leitrim had great difficulty in getting definitive information from the local HSE office. A member of a family was treated for a serious illness in Sligo General Hospital and got two weeks of nursing home care under the winter initiative. The patient was confined to bed and without a doubt needed full-time nursing home care. When the family applied for nursing home subvention under the fair deal scheme, they were informed that financial assistance would not be available until medical assessment was carried out by the HSE medical team.
They were also informed that cover would only commence from the date of approval following medical assessment, which could take weeks and result in a massive nursing home bill that the family would be unable to meet. When I pointed out that the process could take several weeks I was told that under the new scheme, families will be liable for far more costs than under the subvention scheme.
Will patients be able to transfer automatically from the subvention scheme to the fair deal scheme or will they have to be assessed again? There is much confusion and many people in local areas are interpreting rules in different ways. There is significant confusion. When we contacted the Minister for Health and Children's office we were told there is no difficulty but on the ground there is much confusion. Is the problem with the Department or in the way local offices are interpreting the rules? The confusion must be cleared up.