Belfast Telegraph

Lack of provision for home help ‘leaves 6,300 on waiting list’

Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary challenged the lack of home help hours available.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

A shortage of home help hours has led to some families being “put through the trauma” of proving their loved one is terminally ill in order to access supports, it has been claimed.

Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary told the Dail on Thursday that some community health organisations (CHOs) in some parts of the country had advised families that home help hours will not be made available unless the person has a terminal condition.

Mr Calleary said more than 6,000 people were on a waiting list for home help hours and packages, and the lack of hours available was delaying discharges and consequently impacting on acute hospital services.

“The home help waiting list has 6,300 people on it as we speak,” Mr Calleary told the Dail.

“That is 6,300 families who are waiting hours for their loved ones to be kept at home. That is 6,300 patients, many of whom might be in hospital, many of whom might be in an acute hospital setting and who would be far better at home in terms of their health.”

According to Mr Calleary, new figures provided by the HSE to the party showed home support is short by more than 160,000 hours in the first five months of this year and that if the trend continued it would mean a shortage of 400,000 hours by the end of the year.

He asked Tanaiste Simon Coveney why families were being “put through the trauma of having to go to their consultant and get a letter to say that their loved one is dying so that they might get an hour or two of home help?”

“A number of CHOs, management and the HSE have advised that home help hours will not be made available to any family unless their loved one has a terminal condition and that has to be proved by a letter from a consultant,” he claimed.

“In June figures provided to deputy Stephen Donnelly… there were 18,600 bed days lost in Irish hospitals because of delayed discharges. At the same time one in every 10 applicants for home help support is waiting for some hours.

“Tanaiste they (the two matters) are connected.”

The Mayo TD added that the lack of commitment on the part of the Government to ensure that the money allocated was being spent on hours was impacting on delayed discharges.

In response, Mr Coveney said the government was aware of the “severe pressures” on the supports needed to allow people be discharged from hospital and that it was “trying to prioritise” how the money for home help hours was being allocated.

He told the Dail that almost 7.52 million home help hours had been provided by May this year, which was about 2% below target.

“Under the 2019 service plan, 10,980 transitional care funding approvals – approximately 210 per week – have been sanctioned to support patients discharged from acute hospitals move to private nursing home beds during the year so far,” he said.

“A budget of 28.5 million euro has been assigned to the services for 2019.”

Mr Coveney said there had been a “significant” increase in demand for home care packages given the ageing population and the increasing number of people who want support to live independently as possible at home.

“We are responding to that by increasing budgets, increasing hours and available resources, but there’s clearly still work to do in that area,” the Tanaiste added.

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