The annual report from the Health Information and Quality Authority published in August 2019 highlights key trends in the change of profile of designated centres for older people.
We previously set out the landscape for investing in nursing home care in Ireland here. The current trends may explain in part why closures are more frequent amongst small care centres (30 beds or less), and how this could ultimately pose challenges in ensuring the level and quality of patient care we aspire to in Ireland, particularly in light of our ageing population.
The number of designated centres for older people and indeed the number of residential places overall are in fact increasing, albeit at a slow rate. This, however, is unlikely to meet the needs of an ageing population. According to the report, there was an increase of two nursing homes registered in 2018 compared to 2017, and on 31 December 2018, there were 31,251 residential places for older people in nursing homes in Ireland, compared to 30,732 at the same time in 2017.
Whilst the report shows marginal growth in the number of residential spaces available in Irish nursing homes, it raises the concern that closures are occurring at a higher rate amongst smaller care providers. The report states, 'the average occupancy of the four centres which voluntarily closed and were not replaced was 28 people.' The report suggests that the trend of higher closures in this profile of care provider can be linked to underfunding by the State. The "sustainability of the financial model underpinning smaller centres" is one of the reasons many are forced to close their doors.
The financial model referred to is the HSE-operated Fair Deal scheme, now in its tenth year. The scheme was intended to support those who need long-term care in...