Mayo provider wants ‘level playing field’ for community led care of older people

A SUCCESSFUL Mayo provider of community led care for older people has called for a level playing field in the funding of services, in order to stem the closure of smaller local care homes.

A spokesperson for St. Brendan’s Community Village Project in Mulranny said the project, which was set up by the community for the community, is under long-term threat as it struggles to compete with HSE-funded facilities and larger urban commercial nursing homes.

Project founder and local GP, Dr. Jerry Cowley, said the government needs to take action, as congregated supported housing care within community is what people want, and is in high demand.

He called for the St. Brendan’s model to be recognised, invested in and replicated across the country.

Said Dr. Cowley: “Our service has stood the test of time and works very well for the people we serve. We provide a service that is broader than a nursing home. It is a continuum of housing care beginning with people living in their own home with supports, through to sheltered housing and when needed moving to high support care - all within our local community.

People get housing and care appropriate to their needs along the continuum in their own locality. This includes respite, convalescent and palliative care and timely use of intravenous antibiotics locally for life-threatening diseases which helps keep people out of hospital, and allows earlier discharge. By supporting people to stay locally, we have saved our village.”

St. Brendan’s Village was established 25 years ago and is a registered not for profit community run charity. It is funded through a mix of the Fair Deal Scheme, some State funding, donations and fundraising.

It comprises 16 low support sheltered houses and a 25-bed high support unit and is the biggest employer in the area with 51 staff.

However, Dr. Cowley said that the long-term viability of the facility is threatened by the same challenges which have already forced the closure of 34 smaller nursing homes since 2020 (30 of those outside the Dublin region).

“The number of large commercial private nursing homes with over 100 beds has doubled in recent years. Our nearest HSE facility is nine miles away and cannot meet local need. However, all HSE Mayo facilities receive on average 60 per cent more State funding per resident per week (€668) from the National Treatment Purchase Fund compared to non-HSE facilities such as St. Brendan’s - and both are subject to the same admission criteria, standards and HIQA regulations.

“If community congregated services such as ours are to survive then government must recognise this model as part of how we meet people’s needs and give equity with HSE facilities. I am aware that a complaint has been accepted by the EU to be heard against the government about this inequity.

“Unless the government levels the playing field for smaller not-for-profit housing and care providers, the warehousing of older person’s care into expensive, large, private, urban nursing homes will accelerate.

“People should be given the choice to stay locally rather than having to travel to live for the rest of their lives at a distant greenfield site where they know no-one.”

He continued: “The government has established a Commission on Care which will begin its work shortly. I am calling on the Commission as part of its upcoming work to recognise the value of our community based and led continuum model and to invest in this approach as part of the future, not just in Mulranny but nationwide.

“The State’s approach should facilitate community based social enterprises to go beyond sheltered housing and expand into providing a broad continuum of housing and care for older people within their localities. There is no reason why there cannot be a St Brendan’s village in every community. We are providing the approach which our older people want.”

St. Brendan’s also includes a local horticultural project on land directly behind the village which includes large poly-tunnels and raised beds which produce fresh fruit and vegetables for residents. Any surplus is sold in the local community to generate revenue.