Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
278. Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the residential homes for older people under the Health Service Executive considered to be not up to the standards set in the Health Information and Quality Authority standards recently published; if she has information on the work which needs to be carried out to bring them up to standard; if there are plans to provide replacement beds rather than refurbish buildings in some cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15263/09
Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney): In preparation for the introduction of the new national standards for residential care settings for Older People, the Health Service Executive has put in place a programme of preparation to ensure that its public facilities will be in a position to comply with the requirements of the standards. This preparation has focused on two particular areas to ensure that: policies, procedures and overall service are sufficient to meet the new standards; and the overall infrastructure is adequately developed on a phased basis.
The Executive established a Residential Standards National Reference Group which included Managers/Directors of Nursing of HSE residential facilities. Under the auspices of this group, each residential care setting is currently undertaking work to benchmark their facility against the standards in order to identify and address the deficits that can be addressed on a cost neutral basis. There are also formal implementation groups established across the four areas with the national group acting as a reference group to guide the work of the implementation groups at local level. The overall effort is to ensure preparation within the public facilities to comply with each of the 32 standards.
In some cases, additional investment will be required. In 2006, at the request of my Department, the Executive carried out an assessment of need for residential care for older people in preparation for both the impending standards and the National Development Plan 2009-2013. As part of this work, an assessment was undertaken to establish the extent to which existing public residential accommodation required replacement or refurbishment in the context of emerging standards, but also in the context of wider environmental and structural requirements including health & safety, fire and other criteria.
In terms of reconfiguration and development the focus of the HSE’s programme is to target the highest priority locations in the first instance and progressing over time, within the resources available, to bring all our facilities up to the required standards. The Deputy will be aware that Standard 25 addresses the physical environment for all types of residential centres. A distinction is made between new and existing facilities. This provides a six year period for existing nursing homes, whether public, private or voluntary to meet certain infrastructural deficits, for example with regard to room sizes, the number of residents per room and usable floor space. The Chief Inspector has discretion to extend this timeframe where the provider and the Chief Inspector agree a written, explicit, costed plan with timescales to address these deficits.
The 2009 National Service Plan sets out its plan for the management and configuration of public long-term residential care services in the current year. The Service Plan identifies a requirement to reduce the number of long-term residential care beds in some parts of the country, particularly where there is a surplus and/or the standard of facilities is considered inadequate, and where it is necessary to address infrastructural deficits in order to meet health & safety and fire requirements, and the new standards. It also provides for a number of additional and replacement long-term residential care beds over the course of 2009. The latest information from the HSE indicates that 737 additional beds and 506 replacement beds will become operational during 2009. This includes beds being provided under the Capital Plan and beds being provided under the Fast-Track Initiative.
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