BY Emma Connolly
THE HSE has to step up to the plate and change the ad hoc way sheltered housing and related care is provided for the elderly, according to a junior minister.
Cork South West TD, and Minister for the Elderly, Jim Daly, has started the year by warning his senior department officials that the lack of joined-up thinking in this area is no longer good enough.
He says his priority for the next 12 months is ensuring the elderly have all the services they need to remain in their homes for as long as possible, and he intends to implement a template for national care of the aged.
To make it happen, he’s demanding major changes when it comes to the role, duties and responsibilities of the HSE.
He said: ‘Since being appointed Minister for the Elderly I have travelled the length and breadth of the country to see how we organise housing for our elderly citizens. In the wake of this, I am not satisfied with the current ad-hoc approach to providing housing for the elderly.’
The changes he says he ‘is demanding’ include: GP cover for all homes; the contribution of home help from the HSE in the morning and evening; a complete day care service; social and healthy living facilities such as Meals on Wheels, and integration into the community.
He singled out voluntary sheltered housing projects in areas like Rosscarbery and Bandon, and Skibbereen Retirement Village, as positive examples of what can be achieved.
However, he said: ‘It is time for government and the HSE to set the highest standards and ensure a plan is in place to ensure the crucial element of daily care and support for residents will be an integral part of the planning and operation of all sheltered housing developments.’
Minister Daly also warned: ‘The HSE and the Department of Health need, in particular, to end the divide between the private, public and voluntary sectors, who currently each play an important role, but not in a joined-up way. I will be demanding a national policy that will see the HSE commit to the provision of care services when planning is being granted for public and private units.
‘There is no point in building state-of-the-art housing units if there is no on-site care which, unfortunately, is the case in many instances now.
‘When it comes to creating a secure future for the elderly, blocks and mortar is not enough.
‘Like any other development, service commitments from the HSE, tied to securing planning permission stage are required. There is more to be achieved in this area that can contribute to significant improvements in the living standards of the elderly that will not break the bank and crucially keep the elderly out of nursing homes.’
Mr Daly also pledged to hold a national summit early this year ‘where all stake-holders will, informed by the voices and experiences of the elderly, develop and, critically, implement a national strategy on care.’
Meanwhile, the impasse between unions and the HSE over the staffing of the new Bandon Community Hospital continues.
A spokesman for Minster Daly said: ‘The HSE are awaiting a Labour Court hearing regarding the staffing issues in the first week of February. This is a deeply regrettable situation given that the HSE have offered increased staffing ratios compared with what the hospital previously operated on. It is most disappointing that this state-of-the-art facility that the community have campaigned for, for more than 40 years, and was delivered last year at a cost more than €3.5m, remains closed for this reason.’