Concerns are being raised about reports that some private nursing home operators are choosing to close their care homes in favour of accommodating Ukrainian refugees.
Waterford TD and Junior Minister for Older People, Mary Butler, says she travelled to Dublin yesterday to hold emergency meetings with officials in her department.
Including today's news of two closures in Waterford (unrelated to the refugee situation), 11 nursing homes nationally have informed HIQA that they will be closing their doors.
Minister Butler says it's an unprecedented and highly concerning number.
Nursing Homes Ireland have told WLR that they know of at least one private operator who has de-registered their nursing home and has since accommodated those seeking refuge from the war in Ukraine - for which the government will pay them.
The organisation says that in their experience, nursing home owners who have decided to close for other reasons, such as financial pressures, have then been approached and engaged by the government to offer refuge to those fleeing war.
However, the Junior Minister is concerned that private operators might choose to do this themselves, even if the nursing home is viable.
"I have seen it across the country," said Minister Mary Butler, "that some providers are opting to de-register their nursing homes and to take in displaced people as another alternative.
"Obviously, there are some nursing homes that come under a lot of conditions and regulations from HIQA, and they may have to close for those reasons, which is completely fine.
"These are private providers who own their own premises and they are entitled to make these decisions."
The Fianna Fáil representative says she is now looking at what measures can be introduced to stem the flow of closures, while remaining within her budget of €1.4 billion.
"We have lost 76 beds in Waterford, which currently have 65 people in those beds," Minister Butler explained in relation to the Rockshire and Maypark cases in Waterford, "That's a real worry for me at the moment and we're seeing it around the country at the moment.
"So, there is a bit of a contagion effect at the moment and I'm certainly looking at a cooling-off period when a nursing home might close.
"We're certainly looking at a cooling-off period before they can have a change of use.
"We're looking at everything because I am genuinely concerned about the trend I have seen in the last 12 months."
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