Grandmother with motor neurone disease stuck in hospital for months due to carer shortage
A grandmother with a debilitating illness has been left languishing in hospital for eight weeks because health chiefs have been unable to provide a care package for her at home.
Elizabeth Canavan, who suffers from motor neurone disease, was told almost two months ago she could go home as soon as a care package was put in place.
However, the 59 year-old is still lying in a hospital bed in the Mid Ulster Hospital at Magherafelt because of a shortage of community care staff.
Mrs Canavan's husband of 39 years, Pat, said his wife is desperate to get back to their home in Ballinderry, Co Derry to be with her family.
However, he said he was told by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust that the manpower is currently not there to provide the home care his wife requires.
"Elizabeth loves home. She is very independent and just wants to get back home.
"I can see her getting depressed. Eight weeks is a long time to be lying in hospital," said Mr Canavan.
Mrs Canavan was admitted to hospital two months ago after she fell at home and sustained a number of fractures.
"She was told almost right from the start she would be able to return home as soon as a care package was put in place.
"They sent out a hospital bed and a special chair to our house.
"They are all sitting ready for her but with no carers she can't get home," said Mr Canavan (63).
The couple have been married for almost 40 years, with three children and six grandchildren.
"It is lonely without her at home. It makes her day when the grandchildren call to see her but she just wants to get home to be with us all again," said Mr Canavan.
The Northern Health and Social Care Trust said it could not comment on Mrs Canavan's case as it did not have consent to do so.
However, a spokeswoman said: "Northern Trust staff, both in the community and the hospital setting, work with considerable effort to minimise delays.
"From the moment a patient is admitted to hospital, staff will begin to plan their discharge to ensure that all necessary support, medication and care needs are addressed and planned for and any unnecessary delays are avoided."
She added that there are a variety of reasons why a patient may be delayed in being discharged, including awaiting specialist equipment, awaiting private nursing home assessment or the ability to secure a home care package from a provider.
"There can also be difficulties in securing care providers in certain areas as demand is outstripping capacity.
"This is not an issue specific to the Northern Trust and the Trust is actively working to increase provision of packages where possible," she said.
SDLP MLA for the area Patsy McGlone said he is currently dealing with at least eight similar cases.
"It is very disappointing this has happened to this family. Unfortunately it is not an isolated case.
"I am currently inundated with queries and issues around the delivery of care packages. I'm dealing with at least eight at the minute.
"It appears while the finances are there they don't have the staff to deliver them.
"Senior management at health trusts really need to get to terms with this," said Mr McGlone.
He said he believes that poor pay and poor terms and conditions for carers is the reason for the manpower problems.