Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming TD has welcomed the decision to extend the remit of the Office of the Ombudsman to cover residents in private nursing homes.

Deputy Fleming had previously called for the extension of the Ombudsman’s remit to ensure that all residents are given peace of mind, irrespective of whether they are residing in a public or private nursing home. It has not been generally well known that the Ombudsman already had the authority to investigate complaints by individuals in respect of HSE run nursing homes.

“I was happy to support the effort in the Dáil to extend the remit of the Ombudsman to ensure that people in private nursing homes are afforded the protection and peace of mind they deserve as is already enjoyed by people in HSE run nursing homes. This is something that I have long called for and I welcome that steps are finally being taken to make this a reality” said Deputy Fleming.

“One disturbing thing that we learned from the Áras Attracta revelation in County Mayo last year is that, as it stands, people are not aware of the services operated by the Office of the Ombudsman. Immediately after those revelations the Ombudsman, Mr Peter Tyndall, took to national radio to highlight that people who use a health facility operated by the HSE have the right to bring any complaint or concerns that they have to the attention of the Ombudsman.

“However not a single complaint was made to the Ombudsman regarding Áras Attracta, presumably because people were not aware of the Ombudsman’s role in dealing with complaints relating to the HSE.

“Following the extension of the Ombudsman’s remit there is now the opportunity to launch a nationwide publicity campaign to highlight his role, and to outline that residents in both public or private residential care settings have the right to contact the Ombudsman to air any complaints that they have in relation to their individual care. HIQA has authority in relation to nursing homes but do not have the authority to deal with specific individual complaints.

“I will continue to push for a publicity campaign to take place as soon as possible. It is of utmost importance that the role and function of the Office of the Ombudsman is known to all, including residents in nursing homes and their families. I am advising people who have any concerns to contact the Ombudsman immediately” said Deputy Fleming.