People Before Profit Cllr Shaun Harkin said,
“Rising costs are having immense ramifications for people right across our communities. Paying “third party top-up fees” to private care homes is becoming an unaffordable burden for many families.
“The Derry and Strabane Council Health and Community Committee agreed to back my proposal to request an extensive report and presentation on the use of top-up fees by Western Trust officials.
“A recent FOI revealed serious questions for the Western Trust and the Department of Health to answer.
“We’ve spoken to families of residents struggling to cope with costs who say they are forced to pay a third party top-up fee despite having no choice in the care home their loved one was admitted to.
“We have also been contacted by families of residents who said they have been asked to pay a third party top-up fee for a care home that has exactly the same environment or services as a care home close by that does not charge a third party fee.
“Private care homes cannot charge more on the basis of providing better care.
“There’s also frustration that there’s no clear mechanism to access a refund if the service is not provided to the agreed standard.
“In the Western Trust area, there’s been a year on year rise in the number of private care homes charging top-up fees.
“As a result of Stormont Health policy, private care homes have been charging extra than what our health trusts are paying as the standard rate. This extra cost has to be met by a relative or friend of the resident.
“We are very concerned about the lack of oversight of these extra costs and we fear it may used as a way of making more profits for the private care home companies.
“We need Health Trusts to assure the public that private care homes are operating fairly and honestly when it comes to the cost of care. Vulnerable families should not be exploited for profit.
“We look forward to the Western Trust carrying out a thorough investigation into third party top-up fees and their attending Council to set out findings.”