‘Financially stressed’ Kilkenny Care Homes need urgent support from HSE

Limping along: Supplier bills are mounting and directors are forced to choose who to pay each month

Sian Moloughney

Reporter:

Sian Moloughney

Prague House, Freshford

Prague House, Freshford

Urgent finance is needed for six supported care homes in Kilkenny that are in dire financial straits.

The homes are ‘limping along’ and are regularly afraid there won’t be money in the bank on a Friday to pay wages.

Local businesses and suppliers support the care homes - but many remain unpaid for services with one home owing local food suppliers more than €8,000 and about €9,000 to local builders and tradesmen for work on the building to bring it up to HIQA standards.

One centre manager could not even buy an ink cartridge for her office printer without first checking with the accountant there was money in the centre’s account.

Now the voluntary boards of directors of the six homes have come together to make an urgent call on the Minister for Health to provide them with emergency funding and to then come up with an adequate funding model that will secure their futures.

They say the situation is intolerable. Outgoings are constantly more than incomings. Dedicated, qualified and caring workers are on minimum wage.

The six care homes have two main sources of income - fees from residents and a subvention from the HSE. Fees are limited - residents are only asked to pay about €220 of their pension, leaving them with a small allowance; residents with personal means are asked to pay more.

The HSE subvention is minimal and different to each home. It is roughly half of what the residents pay.

This week the boards took their concerns directly to Minister for Health Simon Harris. He was in Kilkenny for a Fine Gael party selection convention on Monday and board chair of St Joseph’s care home in Kilmoganny, Philip Brennan, left him in no doubt as to the gravity of the situation.

Board chair at Prague House, in Freshford, Paul Murphy, said the homes are “very financially stressed.”

“We offer a wonderful service, but without funding we can’t survive,” Catherine Byrne, manager of Prague House said.

Paul added: “We are in such dire straits work is not even hampered anymore, it's just impossible.”

The care homes want to be treated with fairness by the HSE. They point out that by offering a low dependency place for elderly people to live they are keeping them in their community and active for longer and keeping them out of much more expensive to the state nursing home or hospital accommodation. If the care homes were to close their doors the HSE would have to provide places for the almost 100 elderly people now resident in them.

Bills are mounting for all the homes. For example accounts for Prague House have a stark note at the bottom: “Little/ no suppliers paid in September.” Those suppliers include tradesmen, local grocery suppliers, Irish Water, Kilkenny County Council. Tax bills must also be paid on a monthly basis to ensure the tax clearance certificate needed to even qualify for the minimal HSE funding.

Catherine explained: “We had considered rising residents' fees but the founding principle of the home is to be afforable for people with only a pension, so fees won't be going up.”

In Kilkenny the six homes are: Mount Carmel in Callan; St Joseph’s in Kilmoganny; Gahan House in Graiguenamanagh; the O’Gorman Home in Ballyragget; Prague House in Freshford; and Rosedale Residential Centre in Kilmacow.

The homes are ‘low dependency’ which means they could be described as a ‘retirement home,’ they are very different to a nursing home where residents need ongoing medical care.

The homes have been in constant correspondence with the HSE who said the homes need to “consider their model of service delivery,” and that HSE funding is finite.

Catherine said: “This has to be addressed at government or Department of Health level - do they want these homes to survive?”

“We feel we have made enough information available to convince them this is a viable solution to a modern day issue,” Paul added.

Board members of the homes met with Minister of State Jim Daly in January and understood funding would be addressed in June. That was moved to August and then to November.

A meeting with Minister Daly is now scheduled to take place today, Thursday, October 4.