I am seeking some clarity and transparency regarding the future of publicly-run nursing homes. There was a very strong article in last Sunday's Sunday Business Post on what is an impending crisis in terms of publicly-run nursing homes not meeting the standards set down by the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA. Some 21 of the biggest publicly-run nursing homes are now at risk of closure due to lack of investment by the State in enabling those institutions to become compliant with HIQA standards. The alarming aspect of this is that no funding has been provided in the 2015 Estimates to bring those 21 homes up to standard. They span 14 counties, six in County Cork alone. We are talking about institutions such as Peamount, Leopardstown Park, Gorey district hospital, Tralee, Monaghan, Nenagh and many others, and of course St. Finbarr's in Cork city, Castletownbere, Bandon, St. Joseph's in Bantry, and St. Joseph's in Millstreet. The bottom line is that unless the standards are met by July, or unless there is some indication of a real commitment to meet those standards, the options are closure of the institutions, a significant reduction in beds, or closure of high-acute or high-dependency units.
The director of the HSE has warned that there is not enough funding there to sort this out. I want to know whether there is a creeping policy of privatisation by stealth. In other words, is it the Taoiseach's view that these institutions will wither on the vine and will close naturally through lack of investment on his part, and that HIQA will have to intervene? HIQA has been very clear in saying that if a centre is not in compliance by July 2015, and if no realistic time-bound, costed, funded plan has been agreed with the authority, then appropriate conditions will be attached to any renewal of registration. We need a bit of honesty from the Government now about what is going to happen.