Care home alarm must be listened to
CARE homes have long been the Cinderella service of health care.
Out of sight and out of mind they have been providing an essential service while struggling to survive as businesses.
The importance of the homes in looking after the most vulnerable members of our society has been all too tragically illustrated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Suddenly, these were no longer peaceful rest homes but the frontline in the battle against a deadly disease.
In that context, the standard of professional care, the quality of protective equipment and hygiene security was just as important as in the hospital.
If the coronavirus was a wake-up call, the clock has been set to snooze far too many times.
Two private care homes have already closed and, without more revenue, others could swiftly follow.
Such losses are difficult to understand for those outside the care industry. The costs of a bed in a care home are intimidating, starting at £463 for a week’s residential care rising to over £1,000 for nursing respite care.
Hard-pressed families make comparisons with five-star hotels as they dig deep, not being privy to the true costs of 24-hour health care.
The States, rather belatedly, does know. It has looked at the finances of the care homes and can see that no one is making millions. Instead, the charges need to go up or more homes will close.
With more people living longer and dementia care in particular increasing demand, closures are the polar opposite of what needs to happen.
But how – or rather who – is going to pay for a rejuvenated care sector?
The Long-term Care Insurance Fund, which helps islanders meet the bills, is going bust. Seventeen years after its launch it will run out of money by 2047. If that happens, anyone under the age of 50 will not see a penny back for the thousands they have already contributed.
To stop such a disaster islanders have been presented with a choice. Either put the rates up substantially (thereby heavily penalising the young) or require the 75% of pensioners who own their home to put part of its value towards their care.
There is no easy, painless choice.