REPORTS of a funding crisis in the Fair Deal scheme since this early in the year are worrying. The HSE Service Plan for this year had projected an increase of 91 people in the average number of people to be funded by the scheme during 2019, but this was obviously nowhere near enough given the country’s rapidly-growing older population, which begs a question as to how the planners could have got it so wrong.
But then, it is just another addition to the constant stream of underfunded HSE programmes that have the health service in the sad state it is in. Unfortunately, in the case of Fair Deal, it is the most vulnerable members of our society, the elderly, who will be the victims of its shortcomings.
Older people in need of nursing home care – and their relatives as well – are counting on the Fair Deal scheme being available to give them a decent quality of life and dignity in their twilight years. Waiting times for people wishing to avail of Fair Deal will get longer and this will have a knock-on effect on acute hospitals where many waiting for admission to nursing homes are occupying beds.
Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly opined that the Fair Deal scheme was expected to support an average of 23,042 people in 2019, but there were already 23,228 availing of it at the end of February. It is clear that the Department of Health and the HSE need to revisit their projections with due urgency and with greater realism to meet the funding shortfall.