Martin Responds to Ombudsman’s Report on the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme
The Minister for Health and Children, Mr Micheál Martin TD wishes to respond to the Report on the operation of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme which has been published today (30 January, 2001) by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“This is a detailed report,” the Minister said “representing a considered analysis of significant issues of public policy, public management and the practice of good government. While the report analyses in detail the operation of one particular scheme, the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme, its conclusions dwell on the more fundamental reforms considered desirable by the Ombudsman in how Government operates and particularly the balance between the Executive and the Legislature in the Irish context. The far reaching conclusions outlined in Chapter 8 of the Report justify careful consideration in all relevant quarters and particularly at political and public service levels”. However, the Minister added that there were a number of measures in relation to the operation of the scheme which are being actioned immediately.
The Minister noted that a number of significant shortcomings in the operation of the scheme have been highlighted in the Report. The Minister indicated that the findings contained in the Ombudsman’s Report will be fully considered by his Department.
The Minister went on to explain that an expenditure review of the Scheme is currently being undertaken by his Department in association with the Department of Finance and is expected to be completed shortly. “It is my intention to bring proposals to Government in relation to whatever measures may be necessary arising from the findings of this review and the Report of the Ombudsman and experience gained from the operation of the scheme since its inception in 1993”, the Minister said.
The Minister indicated that his immediate priority is to ensure that the two aspects of the Regulations that have the most direct impact on nursing home patients and their families are fully addressed without delay. Arrangements have already been made to enable nursing home patients and their families who may be due payments arising from the provisions in the regulations relating to the retention of one fifth of the rate of Non Contributory Old Age Pension for personal use to be refunded speedily. Health boards have been instructed to complete all such payments as quickly as possible.
The Minister also pointed out that the provision in the Nursing Home Subvention Regulations which allowed for the assessment of circumstances of adult sons and daughters was removed with effect from 1st January, 1999. However, the issue of making payments to those who were adversely affected by this regulation between September 1993 and December 1998 remained. The Minister, together with the health boards, is now putting in place procedures to ensure that monies will be paid in a uniform manner as quickly as possible to those whose subvention was unfavourably affected by this regulation. It is expected that these payments will cost in the region of £6 million.