Coalition to sanction plans hardening oversight of nursing homes

Move comes after pandemic and includes extra enforcement powers for health watchdog

The Government is set to approve plans to strengthen oversight of the nursing homes sector in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the steps being brought to Cabinet today by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly are not explicitly linked to Covid, it is understood that he will seek permission to draft legislation providing additional enforcement powers and tools for the chief inspector in the Health Information and Quality Authority.

The additional powers envisaged will also include provisions for non-compliance notices and new powers in relation to unregistered providers. The Department of Health also plans to introduce new reporting structures to improve operational data supplied by nursing home operators to enable more detailed planning for the entire sector.

It is thought that the move from Mr Donnelly is likely to be followed by further regulatory and legislative provisions relating to the sector, which saw thousands of deaths linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.


BusConnects agenda

Separately, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan is to seek Cabinet approval for the business case for the Bus Connects programme, which clears the way for planning applications to be submitted. The step will also enable the National Transport Authority to start procurement for so-called "next generation ticketing", such as payment of fares with mobile phones.

Under the BusConnects programme, some 230km of bus corridors and 200km of cycle lines will be introduced. However, the plan has faced pushback at local level amid residents’ concern over the impact on some amenities and other issues.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will also brief colleagues on plans for the Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund, from which Ireland is to receive €1 billion to mitigate the impacts of the UK exit from the European Union.

Ministers will be asked for proposals to tackle the adverse impacts, in particular measures to support the fisheries and agri sectors, reskilling and checks at ports and airports. It runs to the end of 2023 and Ireland has already received €361 million in funding.

Some €270 million has been allocated already, including €66 million for a scheme decommissioning parts of the whitefish fleet, for digital skills and the Rosslare Europort Border Control measures.

Extra facilities have been built at the Co Wexford sea port, as well as at Dublin Airport and the capital’s port, because of checks and controls required as a consequence of the United Kingdom leaving the EU.

After Cabinet, Mr Donnelly will launch an action plan for Women’s Health, coinciding with International Women’s Day, including implementation plans for free contraception services, specialist menopause clinics, specialist endometriosis services and regional fertility hubs. It will also cover Safe Access Zones legislation and the Human Reproduction Bill, dealing with the issue of surrogacy, but which is also a precursor for publicly funded in vitro fertilisation.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will bring the Justice Plan 2022 to Cabinet, which is also expected to approve the appointment of Jonathan Ruane, a researcher and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to the board of RTÉ.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times