At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster welcomed confirmation from the HSE that they have written to HIQA instructing them to bring in guidelines in relation to the rights of medical card holders to the attention of private nursing home providers.
Having raised the issue in successive meetings and through correspondence with the Department of Health and the HSE as well as other related agencies, Teachta Munster said it was welcome that there was finally some limited acknowledgement that an issue existed.
Teachta Munster said:
“The facts of this have always been clear to me – by law, private nursing homes should not be charging patients for items such as incontinence pads, wound dressings, sore creams and medications that residents are entitled to free of charge under their medical cards.
“If they were living in the community, these items would be free of charge under their medical card.
“I have been raising this issue for years and have drafted a bill to resolve the matter through legislation.
“In that context, it was particularly frustrating over the past 18 months as various health officials reacted in an oblivious manner when I put it to them directly at the Public Accounts Committee.
“Indeed, responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Acts illustrated officials seemed completely unaware that residents in some private nursing homes were being charged for these items and services they had an entitlement to under the medical card.
“People in nursing homes can be very vulnerable. We have to ensure that those who are tasked with looking after them are not over-charging them or taking advantage of them. We need to see a stop put to these disgraceful practices.
“I do not believe that today’s memorandum will see this practice entirely come to an end but it should serve at least to somewhat discourage those actors who may be tempted to engage in the practice, and put those actively engaged in this on notice.
“I will certainly continue to press at every opportunity for strengthened legislation that would actively prevent every single private nursing home from doing so.”