Thursday 21 September 2017

Fair Deal must show people compassion, insists minister

Minister for Older People Jim Daly called for more flexibility. Photo: Tom Burke
Minister for Older People Jim Daly called for more flexibility. Photo: Tom Burke
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More compassion and flexibility is needed in the Fair Deal scheme to avoid elderly couples being separated if one of them is admitted to a nursing home, Minister for Older People Jim Daly has said.

Mr Daly was speaking as members of the Oireachtas Health Committee deplored the HSE decision to reject an application by Kathleen Devereaux (85) to join her husband Michael (90) after he was admitted to a Wexford nursing home.

The couple, who have been married for 63 years, have now been reunited under the State-subsidised nursing home support scheme following an outcry after they went public on RTÉ's 'Liveline'.

Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell wondered if it would be better to have a computer making these decisions and Sinn Féin's Deputy Louise O' Reilly said the refusal lacked compassion.

Mr Daly, who earlier this week called for more transparency for nursing home residents facing out-of-pocket nursing homes charges, said he wants to know why the couple had to "talk to Joe" to get help.

He has asked the HSE to tell him who originally turned Mrs Devereaux down. "We need to find out if they did not react or could not react because of the rules and regulations."

He also pledged to proceed with plans to set up a statutory homecare scheme to allow people to live independently and said public consultation on how it should be framed will be launched next week.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Simon Harris said cardiac patients can face long journeys in several parts of the country to be treated in a hospital cath lab for a heart attack.

He was questioned on the recent death of Waterford man Thomas Power who suffered a heart attack and died in an ambulance en route to Cork while the cardiac treatment cath lab in University Hospital Waterford was closed for the weekend.

Mr Harris said he had to be guided by independent clinical advice and referred to the Herity report which ruled out the need for a second cath lab in Waterford. He confirmed he is to undertake a national review of the facilities but said the situation in the south east is not unique.

There is no 24/7 service in the Midlands, and patients in Kerry also face long journeys to Cork.

The independent national review will have to direct the locations of cath labs to ensure that there will be enough volume of patients to make sure the service is safe, he added.

Referring to hospital waiting lists he said €20m was allocated to the National Treatment Purchase Fund in Budget 2017, rising to €55m in 2018.

A plan was in place to reduce the numbers delayed for 15 months or more by the end of October.

Some 38,991 patients will be waiting more than 15 months for surgery at the end of October and the plan is to reduce this number by 75pc by that date.

There will be 191,016 waiting for an outpatient appointment for more than 15 months by October and some 95,508 should be seen at that point.

The scoliosis plan for children "aims to ensure no young person is waiting more than four months for surgery by the end of 2017".

However, Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher said there is a serious issue in the delay faced by children to secure a diagnosis and specialist assessment for the condition.

HSE chief Tony O'Brien told the committee there has been a continuing decline in the uptake of the HPV vaccine by schoolgirls to protect against cervical cancer.

In 2014, it was as high as 87pc. But after a series of unfounded allegations about the vaccine's safety were made it fell to 50pc this school year.

He said those who were spreading wrong claims are "playing God with people's lives" and it amounted to "emotional terrorism".

The safety of the vaccine has been independently supported.

Irish Independent

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