The HSE has done it again. This time they have targeted the most vulnerable in our society – those who suffer from dementia.
In May 2005, the Minister for Health announced a scheme for repayment of all wrongfully charged maintenance charges in public long stay facilities. Any person with a medical card who had money deducted from their pension for long stay in-patient services would be entitled to a repayment. Special arrangements were put in place to protect those persons considered to be of ‘unsound’ mind. The HSE assured all relatives of such patients that they would make the claim on behalf of the patient so that the repayment could be lodged to the patient’s private property (PPP) account at the long stay facility where they reside.
My elderly mother has been a resident in a public long-stay nursing home for some time now and was one of those people subjected to the illegal maintenance charges by the HSE. She is wheelchair bound and a victim of Alzheimer’s disease and is considered non compos mentis in terms of her capacity to manage her funds. Some years ago, when it became obvious that my mother was showing signs of developing dementia, my family were advised to activate an enduring power of attorney to protect her affairs in the future. This was duly executed and I am jointly authorised along with another member of the family, to make decisions on my mother’s behalf. My mother holds a PPP account at the nursing home, into which her state pension is paid and the home now legally deducts a charge each week (on behalf of the HSE) from this account towards the cost of my mother’s care. The nursing home also deducts money from this account as required to cover the personal day to day expenses incurred by my mother. This system has worked well over the years and the family have been more than happy to allow the nursing home to manage this account. However when the question arose of making a claim from the Health Repayment Scheme, the family were advised by the nursing home that they had been specifically requested by the HSE to complete the claim forms on behalf of patients who “do not have sufficient capacity themselves to make an application”. We were told by the HSE that the value of the claim would be paid into our mother’s PPP account at the home where it would be held in safe keeping to cover any future expenses incurred by her. Following this reassurance, the family agreed to authorise the nursing home to proceed with making a claim on behalf of our mother.
Last Friday I received a letter from the nursing home stating that my mother’s claim had been successful. However there was also some further explanatory information from the HSE, attached to the letter. This was to inform me (for the first time) that my mother now has two PPP accounts – one managed locally and one managed centrally. Her existing pension fund at the nursing home has been re-named a Local PPP account. The HSE repayment due to my mother has been lodged into a new Central Patient Private Property account, opened by the HSE in my mother’s name. This new form of PPP account is to be managed by the HSE from a central office established in Tullamore. I was informed that the Health Service Executive had invested the re-paid money into this new account on my mother’s behalf to “allow her to earn interest on it”. I’m not really sure what to make of all of this but I do know when I smell a rat. I question the motives of the HSE in opening a new office purely to manage money belonging to pensioners? I didn’t authorise them to open an account there on my mother’s behalf and anyway, why are they only informing me of this now? I’m not so stupid as to think that the HSE really has my mother’s interests at heart. Frankly, the tactics already being used by the HSE to balance their overspent budgets, are enough to make me doubt their intentions even further. Am I right to be so suspicious?