HSE enforcing 'rigid rules' on home-help despite trolley crisis
A scoring system used by the HSE to decide on the allocation of home care packages has been condemned as too rigid at a time when the hospital trolley crisis is rapidly escalating.
Under the marking system, an older person who is living on their own gets the highest possible score of four.
But this drops down to two if they get visits from their family, reducing their chances of getting the service. A person aged 65-75 years only gets a score of one.
It increases to two for those aged 75-85 and is graded as three for people over the 85.
Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East Anne Rabbitte said she has first-hand experience of older constituents who desperately need home care losing out.
"This new score chart is extremely crude and is based on a number of 'risk factors', rather than examining the overall needs of the person.
"All home care hours are allocated based on this scoring scheme. Even if a person lives on their own and has family nearby the fact is they are still on their own."
She said the system is too inflexible and applies a "one size fits all".
"Older people have a right to be cared for with respect and dignity in their own homes and every effort should be made to accommodate this," she said.
"Health Minister Simon Harris and the HSE must find the necessary resources to ensure that home care packages can be provided to those who need them."
The criticism came as Dr Fergal Hickey, spokesman for hospital emergency consultants, warned that over 300 elderly people will die due to overcrowding this winter.
Hospitals struggled to find beds for 388 patients across the country yesterday.
University Hospital Galway faced severe pressure with 40 patients on trolleys, including many frail and elderly people who faced high-risk conditions.
The HSE spokeswoman said the home care service is a discretionary one and national guidance is in place with regard to access.
The guidance is re-circulated at intervals to remind staff that access to home care is based on assessed need. There is no means assessment for access to home care.
She said there is no requirement for a client to hold a medical card in order to access home care and the allocation of service is based on assessed need and "available resources".
Referring to claims that there is a shortage of home help staff, she said the recruitment of these workers is not regarded as a significant problem at this time.
"Posts are being approved and recruitment progressed as appropriate to the needs of individual areas and in consultation with the staff union."
Recruitment is in process in some areas and in other areas business cases are being made.