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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Child home care costs nine times less than hospital

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

SEVERELY brain-damaged children who could be cared for at home with financial support are costing the State nine times more in hospital, according to an independent report.

A year-long hospital stay for one of these children costs €147,365.

However, the Jack and Jill Foundation charity, which funds home care, can provide it for just €16,422, the analysis by Trinity College Dublin health economists revealed.

The charity gets 19pc of its funding from the Health Service Executive (HSE). The rest of it -- €3m a year -- has to be raised by efforts such as recycling mobile phones.

Founder Jonathan Irwin, who set up the charity after his family struggled to care for his severely brain-damaged son Jack in the mid 1990s with no support, said it had helped 1,200 families so far.

Respite

The foundation employs 10 nurses and provides care and respite for families, relieving some of the pressure of looking after a child with a disability.

A family can incur costs of over €50,000 in a year if their child is in hospital, the study carried out by the Centre for Health Policy and Management at the School of Medicine in Trinity College found. This is made up of €22,261 for travel, meals and accommodation and €27,758 due to reduced working hours.

Co-author Professor Charles Normand said the HSE was not providing any home-care package and the study recommended increasing funding for the charity to allow it to expand its work.

Currently it can only provide care for children up to the age of four, leaving families in a limbo after that. If the State increased its grant it could extend the service to children up to six.

He said relying on mobile phone recycling was not sustainable in the long term. Currently, 250 phones can pay for a month's care for a child.

The findings of the report were presented to TDs and senators at a briefing in Dublin yesterday. The report said home care would result in major savings for the State and concluded it should be a priority.

A number of the charity's nurses said there were five children in hospital in Dublin awaiting discharge as soon as their families secured support. One child has spent two-and-a-half years in Temple St.

Mr Irwin said they hoped to get a 50/50 partnership with the HSE. The patron of the charity, financial guru Eddie Hobbs, said the State would be hit with costs of around €410,000 a week if the foundation ceased to exist.

Irish Independent

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