SIPTU has called for investment in public nursing homes to ensure society provides elderly citizens with the standard of care they require. SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The revelations today in The Irish Times concerning a Government report on the future of public nursing homes are extremely worrying. “The report confirms that decades of under-investment in publicly owned and operated nursing homes could force the closure of some 6,800 beds out of a total of 7,449 due to their failure to meet Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) standards by a deadline of 2015. This situation is a direct result of under-investment in public care, while at the same time successive governments pursued a policy of subventions to the private sector, through massive tax breaks mainly to building developers, to build private care units." Paul Bell also criticised claims in the report that there is a “significant difference” between the average weekly cost of care in the public system and in the private sector. “This assertion files in the face of international studies which indicate the greater efficiently and higher standards of care within the public sector. We are now at a crossroads. The issue is whether the state is prepared to continue its direct role in the provision of nursing home care or whether it prefers to allow large private sector providers to monopolise the sector. This will result in families being unable to afford the cost of care and further State subventions being provided to the private sector,” Paul Bell said. “Government has had seven years to invest in either refurbishment or new buildings in order to ensure that public nursing homes meet the required HIQA standards. The State should now immediately fund the necessary improvements in order to ensure public provision of elderly care is maintained. “In Ireland, the problems associated with an over reliance on the private ‘for profit’ sector to provide adequate care for vulnerable people has been evident in a series of scandals, where serious abuse was uncovered in some units. We also have the example of care homes in the UK, some owned by Irish business people, where serious abuses have been uncovered. Inquiries have confirmed that the generation of profits was placed before standards of care in these private homes,” Paul Bell added.