Nursing Home

Private Members Debate – Dail Eireann – Motion on Nursing Home Care – Speech by Dan Neville TD – 17th November 2010

I welcome the opportunity to contribute and congratulate Deputy Reilly for introducing the motion. The Government has ignored the rights of the elderly. It does not recognise their contribution and the treatment of the Ombudsman’s office reflects this. The Office of the Ombudsman was set up as an independent, objective voice on behalf of the citizen. When the Bill was introduced, I remember that Fianna Fáil resisted it at every turn because it did not want an objective response and evaluation of the decisions made. The office gives an objective opinion and recommendations outside of politics but the Government is threatening the status of this office, which it wants to undermine.

The Ombudsman has highlighted the difficulties experienced by the families of people in nursing homes, including financial difficulties. Many in nursing homes have been failed by the State. The health boards and the Department have failed these people and their families in regard to their duties under the law. This is the focus of the motion. The criticisms of HIQA and the standard of inspection of nursing homes are misplaced. It is one year since the inspection regime was set up and two of its objectives are to change the culture of care and to raise standards in nursing homes. A nursing home should be a home from home, not a geriatric ward.

On the issue of restraint, many nursing homes never use restraint but some do. Raising the standards of the HIQA inspection process will improve standards throughout the nursing home regime, which will contribute to a better quality of life and more of a home from home atmosphere in our nursing homes.

The Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, must consider the issue of brain injury and mental health impairment among young people resident in nursing homes. These people are conditioned to respond like geriatrics in their latter years. It is inappropriate that young people with brain injury or intellectual difficulties should be in nursing homes. There should be dedicated services for people in such a position. Nursing homes should meet people’s needs rather than seeing them only as an investment for the proprietor, although the trend is moving in that direction.

On the issue of the geriatric elderly in mental institutions, it is totally inappropriate that those who are elderly and require nursing home care are in psychiatric institutions. I understand that at present there are 1,000 people – I say “people” as they are probably no longer patients – in long-stay psychiatric homes who should effectively be in a nursing home environment because they no longer need the psychiatric intervention they previously needed. Many are elderly, long-term patients and in some ways they are in the homes for social reasons. This also applies to intellectually challenged people who are in long-stay psychiatric nursing homes. It is an issue that needs be addressed. I have costed the saving to the mental health services, in which I know the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, is interested, and this would be well over €350 million.