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Nursing homes eating Government payouts?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Govt Payouts a grey area for nursing homes” (ST, Aug 23).

http://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/infohub_article.asp?readid={734381012-6184-4790874719}&print=1

I think for a destitute and penniless person, it may be a blow to their well being, if we deny them of even these “once in a long time” luxury. The purpose of such periodic Government payouts as I understand it, is to reward senior citizens who have contributed to Singapore’s success, by way of payouts like the GST credits.

Whilst I appreciate the fact that some nursing homes are short of funds in providing their excellent social services of housing and caring for the elderly poor, it is no excuse for not even getting the consent of nursing home residents to use their Government payouts to fund their stay.

For those who are of unsound mind, such as those with dementia, I agree that this practice may perhaps be acceptable.

Now that the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) has flagged this practice, what are the Government agencies with oversight on nursing homes going to do about it?

I would also like to point out that the arrangement to allow intermediate and long-term care proxies to cash home residents’ cheques if they are unable to do so, should not be construed as the right to use their Government payouts.

In this connection, why is it that although the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said its guidelines made it clear that the payouts belong to the patients, it also declined to give a copy to the Straits Times?

I am also disturbed by the reason given by two homes that at briefings held by the authorities, they had been given the impression that they could use the payouts to defray the cost of caring for such patients. In my view, the reason given that some patients were not fully subsidised by the Government and had to be supported by the organisation’s funds coming from public donations, is irrelevant to the issue.

In this context, I fully concur with those nursing homes who said that they do not use the money because it would not be proper.

Finally, whilst I do not concur that homes should be penalized for using such monies in the past, they should at least be given clear guidelines now that such practices should not be allowed to continue.

So far, the silence by the authorities on this issue, is I must say, at best, not “golden” and quite puzzling!