Bill to protect nursing home residents from financial exploitation introduced – Imelda Munster TD
Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has today introduced a bill which would give residents of private nursing homes their full medical card entitlements.
It would also ensure that residents have recourse should a nursing home attempt to deny them those entitlements.
The Health (Medical Entitlements in Nursing Homes) (Miscellaneous Provisions) bill 2019 is co-sponsored by Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on older people, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD.
Deputy Munster drafted the bill to address gaps in the law which currently allow nursing homes to charge residents who are medical card holders for services and medical items which they should receive free of charge.
Deputy Munster said:
“I have had numerous cases brought to my constituency clinics where elderly people are being charged for basic medical equipment and therapies, despite having a legal entitlement to them free of charge under the medical card.
“People are being charged for wound dressings, prescription painkillers and bedsore creams and therapies like physiotherapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy.
“In one case, an elderly resident was billed over €2,500 for these services over a fifteen-month period.
“This is an outrageous cost to elderly people and their families.
“To add insult to injury, there appears to be little or no accountability from the nursing homes who are engaging in these practices and there is no recourse for residents or their families.
“Families who have complained have been told by nursing home management that they can pack up and move their family member somewhere else if they are not happy with the service. This kind of response is totally insensitive and is unacceptable.
“The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) raised this issue when they published guidelines for nursing homes around entitlements of residents, however they have said that they do not have the power to investigate complaints.
“This bill will clarify the entitlements of residents and will give the CCPC the power to investigate individual complaints.
“It has three main functions, firstly it will require the Minister for Health to compile a report on the effect that putting existing regulations on a statutory footing would have.
“Secondly, it will give the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission additional powers to oblige them to investigate complaints against a nursing home by residents or their families.
“Thirdly, the bill creates a new offence under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 where a contract of service between a nursing home and a resident is broken. The bill also puts forward penalties which are in line with the Companies Act.
“It will provide much-needed protection for elderly people, many of whom are vulnerable to financial exploitation.
“I hope this bill will receive cross party support as it makes its way through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”