Over the past decade many new top class private nursing home facilities have opened throughout Ireland. It's a tough business, mainly because of the fallout from our disastrous public health system. Like every business in Ireland today it can be difficult to survive because of red tape and regulations.
Minister Dara Callery recognises these problems and has suggested that he intends to address the over-regulations system so as to make it more simplified. I wish him luck, if he has the will or the power to revert decisions made by senior state officials who don't like to be told that they made a wrong decision. It
has seldom worked in the past. We can only wait and see if the minister will be able to call the shots.
Catherine McGowan (not her real name) opened a private nursing home in the midlands in 1989 to cater for older people who wished to avail of the facility in her locality. Catherine trained as a nurse gave up her job when she married to rear her kids. She is a pleasant, caring type of lady who liked looking after people, so it was a natural move to go into the business she knew best.
Her patients/customers were her friends and her staff were trained to treat people with dignity and respect. Everything wasn't 100 per cent there was such a thing as human error and her patients understood that was part of the pitfalls of running any business in the '90s.
In the early '90s the EU regulations machine was beginning to take hold in Ireland. Because they had bailed us out with money we were never entitled to, we had an obligation to tow the EU line. From this era onwards Ireland was on a slippery slope because we could we longer depend on ourselves to do things for ourselves, we had to check with Europe to check the rules and regulations that seemed to apply to us alone while other EU states held on to their cultures and identities.
Catherine's business and her business plan would have to adapt. A new approach was taken to health care and safety issues. Many new jobs were created in our health service to deal with a raft of legalisation that was coming on stream. These regulations were aimed at private hospitals and nursing homes while the public health system was falling asunder.
Catherine's caring techniques and laidback approach would have to change. She recalled how shortly after she opened her business how neighbours might call to visit a neighbour in the nursing home and both the visitor and patient would go down town for two pints and wander back in time for the tea.
On another occasion a visitor called to visit a farmer patient and they both left and travelled to another town to the local fair. This was an era where the nursing home was a home from home and owners of these homes could use their discretion because they knew people's capabilities.
Around the year 2000 there was an outcry in Ireland from friends of the earth and animal rights organisations over the degrading and cruel techniques of rearing battery chicken for sale to supermarkets. Chickens and hens should be allowed to run free, have their space, not cooked up in cramped secure housing. At the same time rules were changing for nursing homes. Locks had to be fitted on all doors leading in or out of these places. Electronic codes were needed to enter and exit. Young qualified health inspectors had the authority to make random unannounced calls to check if staff were wearing vinyl gloves in the kitchen or proper dress attire while the organisation that trained them was falling down around them. The minister concerned wasn't concerned, saying let's put the spotlight on the private sector. There were double standards, which we all accepted and we all see the end results in modern Ireland health system.
Catherine felt her patients were been treated like battery chickens. They had to be locked in at all times even though they had staff at reception at all times. The raft of legislation and an unconcerned health minister's contempt for decent people affected Catherine and she closed her home after 10 years.
She was one of the old breed who knew what was needed to give a good service in the times we lived in. Nowadays she looks back with fondness on the 10 best years of her life. The work was hard but rewarding and all the laughs made it all worthwhile.