A HSE EMBARGO on the provision of new home helps has been described as a health care crisis, particularly for the elderly.
West Cork TD Michael Collins (Ind) said: ‘The home help service is vital to ensuring that elderly people can remain living in their home.’
And he described the decision of the HSE to refuse further applications – or additional needs – on the basis of cost as ‘outrageous.’
Deputy Collins accused the Government of reneging on its promise – in its programme for government – to increase home helps from a five-day to a seven-day service.
In one letter to an applicant, the HSE’s home support manager stated: ‘At present, there is a set amount of funding available to provide home support services in your area. As the available funding is fully allocated we are regretfully not in a position to provide supports at this time.’
The manager also made the point that ‘applications are currently being kept on file pending availability of home care support’ – a response that Deputy Collins said was ‘farcical given the real and urgent need of the applicants.’
The Independent TD said many of his constituents have been getting refusal letters in the past two weeks and he described the vast majority of these applications as ‘urgent.’
He raised the matter in the Dáil on Thursday, May 30th, when he questioned the Minister of State for Older People, Jim Daly TD.
The junior minister pointed out that funding for the home help service has gone up from €300m in 2015 to €450m this year.
Minister Daly stressed that not all of the €450m allocation has been spent. He said the remainder will have to be managed to the end of the year.
Unfortunately, he said, that means that some approvals of home help will have to be wait-listed, and that high dependency cases will have to be prioritised.
Michael Collins refuted claims that there is a lack of home help workers in West Cork, saying he is constantly meeting workers who are seeking extra hours.
Deputy Collins blamed the over-run on the Children’s Hospital, saying: ‘It is hurting healthcare budgets. The home help service is just the first to be undermined in the month of June – barely half-way through the calendar year.’
The West Cork TD described the cutbacks as being ‘penny wise but pound foolish’ because the lack of care in the home ‘will only put additional pressure on acute hospital services.’