November 24, 2020
Major reform in nursing homes sector needed – Senator Paul Gavan

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called for a debate on elder care across the state, and the need to review the current private-for-profit model that dominates the care of our older people.
Speaking in the Seanad today, Senator Gavan said:
“The for profit run nursing home sector is by far the dominant model in this state. There are 557 nursing homes in the state, of which 443 (77%) are private, with private nursing homes accounting for 79% of registered beds.

“The for profit model of eldercare is pre-eminent with little debate as to how this has developed.
“Nobody would suggest that our Health Service should be run on a profit and loss basis, and yet that is exactly the model which is operates across most of the nursing home sector.
“A fundamental root and branch reform of the sector is needed. We have wages as low as €11 an hour for workers.

“INMO and SIPTU have said that pay and conditions for staff in private nursing homes are at a level that does not support recruitment and retention of staff and HIQA has highlighted the lower number of staff in private nursing homes.

“There is also large scale resistance from employers to trade unions collectively bargaining for workers.
“The Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response report in July recommended that staffing structures in private nursing homes should be reviewed along with salary structures and terms and conditions of employment with reference to access for sick pay and security of employment.
“Dr. David Nabarro, a special envoy for the World Health Organization, told the Oireachtas Committee that Ireland was at the ‘upper end of the spectrum’ when it comes to deaths in nursing homes. Nursing home deaths in Ireland account for approximately 56% of all deaths from Covid-19.
“There were 8 deaths reported in a Kerry nursing home over the past few days. Last week the HSE took over this nursing home after HIQA inspectors found elderly residents with positive Covid-19 tests interacting with other vulnerable residents.
“An urgent review of the current model of eldercare is needed. Care for the elderly should be governed by patient need, not profitability.”

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