Header Item Nursing Home Charges (Continued)
 Header Item Garda Stations

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 957 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly]  Registered providers of nursing home care are obliged to provide an accessible and effective complaints procedure. Concerns about additional charges should in the first instance be taken up with the nursing home provider. I would encourage anyone with concerns to raise them with the nursing home through this complaints procedure. The Office of the Ombudsman can examine complaints about the actions of a range of public bodies and, from 24 August 2015, complaints relating to the administrative actions of private nursing homes. The Office of the Ombudsman normally only deals with a complaint once the individual has gone through the complaints procedure of the private nursing home concerned.

Age Action's paper, which highlights this issue, is welcome and I assure the Deputy that we are committed to ensuring members of the older population are protected and get the care they need and deserve, particularly at this vulnerable stage in their lives. An interdepartmental agency working group has been established to progress some of the recommendations contained in the review of the nursing homes support scheme, which was published in 2015. I have requested that the working group further examine the matter the Deputy has raised, namely, additional charges, and report to me on same. I have also met Age Action and Nursing Homes Ireland in the past week to discuss the issue of additional charges. It was a productive meeting.

To improve the transparency of these additional charges, I have outlined that a schedule of charges should be provided to potential residents on inquiry as opposed to at the point of admission to a nursing home. Nursing Homes Ireland undertook to advise its members to do so and has reissued its template contract for care to all members. Furthermore, next week I will meet the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, and HIQA to discuss this issue further and determine their positions on it. The Department of Health will continue to engage with relevant bodies and monitor the issue.

It is important that older people are protected and have all the information they need to make an informed decision, especially as many older people who are entering long-term residential care are at a vulnerable stage in the lives.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler I thank the Minister of State for his answer and I welcome his request for a schedule of charges to be provided to potential residents on inquiry rather than at the point of admission. This important element is the crux of the matter.

As spokesperson for older people, I have visited many nursing homes in Waterford city and county and have been impressed by the services offered. However, the core of the issue is the fact the subvention provided by the Government is on average €200 more for public nursing homes than it is for private nursing homes, which may be contributing to the additional costs some residents are incurring.

I was surprised by a recent answer to a parliamentary question that each private nursing home had to negotiate and agree a price for long-term residential care services with the NTPF. It varies from nursing home to nursing home. When the Minister of State meets the NTPF next week, he might suggest that the prices be more standardised.

I was also surprised to learn that a private nursing home had received a subvention of €910 when a public nursing home in the same area had received a subvention of €1,100. Surely one would expect the same level of care in each nursing home and, it would be fair to say, that the costs of subvention would be similar. I appreciate and understand that the subvention would be more in respect of a patient with additional complex needs, but that was not the case in the instance in question. I am delighted to hear that the Minister of State has been working with the steering committee that was established to oversee the review of the pricing system for private long-term residential care facilities. I await that report.

The Minister of State might not have heard me say it, but I am the chair of the Oireachtas all-party group on dementia. We are meeting him in the morning with Senator Kelleher. I look forward to working with the Minister of State.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I appreciate a spotlight being put on any issue affecting older people, who are my area of responsibility. As the Deputy will be aware, I have only been in the job for three weeks and this issue has arisen straight away. There is an onus on us as a Government and a society to protect vulnerable people and ensure older people are not being taken advantage of in nursing homes. From my perspective on what is happening, the jury will be out until I get the full picture. That is why I am looking forward to my meetings, including a further one with Nursing Homes Ireland this week, the NTPF and-----

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler Age Action.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly -----HIQA. We must ensure that we do not compromise any of the activities undertaken in nursing homes. I want there to be more activities undertaken. It is not right that older people should just sit in a chair with their heads to one side for the entire day or lie in bed without being moved. They should get entertainment, stimulation and so on. We must ensure and encourage a comprehensive range of activities for older people. I do not want anything in this debate to take from that. We are adding years to life, but we also want to add a good quality of life to the years people are spending in nursing homes.

As Age Action is stressing, the key to this is consistency and transparency. The Deputy referred to both when discussing the online publication of charges. I would have no difficulty with the charges being covered by the State or anyone else. We can examine any method, but activities should continue and be charged for - if they are charged for at all - in an open, transparent and consistent way. If that is done, I will be satisfied that our elderly people are being looked after.

I welcome the attention that the Deputy is bringing to this very important subject.

Garda Stations

Deputy Tony McLoughlin: Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin I thank the Ceann Comhairle and his office for selecting for discussion what is an important issue on the ground in Sligo and a significant issue for the men and women of the Garda there who have to work day and night in a dangerous, unsafe and outdated station.

During October 2015, I was delighted to be able to announce to my constituents that, after much negotiation and representation from my office, County Sligo was to be allocated a new regional Garda headquarters under the Garda capital investment programme. That Sligo was earmarked to receive this new top-of-the-range Garda facility lifted the spirits in the Garda force locally and gave a vote of confidence to Sligo in general as a regional town which the Government was keen on investing in and improving. I thank the Minister for his attendance at this debate but, much to my disappointment at the time, the progress made on this project since the original announcement by the former Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, has been unacceptable.

It is clear to me from the OPW's responses that I have received to parliamentary questions that there have been few or no developments in real terms on delivering on this issue since 2015. I have been advised that the site allocation period for acquiring a suitable location in Sligo for a new Garda station has been longer than anticipated and has been under way since January 2017.

Why has this only been the case with the Sligo Garda station? While I understand that the former Minister reaffirmed last February that the delivery of a new regional Garda station to Sligo remained a Government priority, we are still no clearer on questions like where the site will be located, when construction will start and how long it will take before the people we trust to uphold law and order in my constituency of Sligo, Leitrim, south Donegal and west Cavan are given the safe working conditions they deserve to be able conduct their work.

The Minister will be aware that the lack of progress with the new Garda station is holding up the development of two other stations, one in Macroom and the other in Clonmel, because they are lumped in as part of a single public private partnership project. For some reason, those two projects are at a much more advanced stage than the Sligo project.

The urgency on my part regarding this issue comes after reading a damning report conducted by Michael Reilly & Associates, which the Garda Representative Association commissioned this year to evaluate the overall health and safety problems at the station in question. The report's findings are shocking and raise several issues of concern that only a new station would address. For example, the report identified serious health and safety issues, including infestation by rodents, ventilation problems, poor heating and dampness, limited and inadequate toilet and shower facilities, leaking toilets, failures in building compliance, fire safety failures, failures in HSE health and safety procedures and requirements, hazardous safety issues, cramped public spaces, limited and outdated cell accommodation, inadequate canteen facilities, lack of interviewing rooms, no garage facilities, poor office accommodation, little or no IT infrastructure, limited file storage areas, no purpose-built armoury and many other serious items of concern.

From reading the report, it is clear that gardaí in Sligo are not being given the tools, resources and standards required to do their jobs effectively in combating crime in the Sligo-Leitrim division.

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