Bill on charges for care and maintenance in long stay institutions approved
The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Ms Mary Harney TD, has announced that the Government have approved today (14th December 2004) the text of a Bill and its publication to deal with the charging of patients in long term care in public institutions and publicly contracted beds in private nursing homes. The Bill will provide a sound legal basis for the long established practice of health boards in charging for the costs of shelter and maintenance in institutions providing long term care.
The Tánaiste sought legal advice from the Attorney General on the legality of the charges. The advice given to her on 5th November was that there was not a sound legal basis for the charges which had been applied by health boards in good faith. Preparation to draft a Bill to correct this situation began immediately and, following further advice from the Attorney General on 8th December, the boards were instructed to stop charging at once.
Successive governments have operated on the basis that it is fair that those receiving long term care should make some payment towards accommodation and daily living costs. The Government have also approved an ex-gratia payment of up to €2,000 to those currently in long stay institutions. This will operate on the following lines:
- The Health Service Executive is being requested to set up a unit to oversee the ex-gratia payments.
- The ex-gratia payments will apply to patients currently in long stay residential accommodation.
- Those involved are currently accommodated in a variety of care settings such as mental hospitals, long stay units for older people and residential units for those with both an intellectual and/or physical disability.
- It’s the intention to make the payments within a reasonable timeframe.
- The applications for refunds will be processed by the unit and the unit will make arrangements for the ex-gratia payments to the individuals concerned.
- The detail of the formal process of such applications is being developed.
Further work on drafting new provision on eligibility has begun and will continue in the New Year. This work will update and clarify the various provisions in previous health service legislation affecting eligibility for services.