Sick homeless left to find their own shelter
Frail homeless patients who are discharged from a hospital ward or emergency department are being left to find shelter for themselves due to cutbacks.
The Department of Social Protection has withdrawn a dedicated liaison officer who worked to prioritise them for shelter after leaving hospitals. Previously social workers or other hospital staff would have contacted this person.
Now the rise in homeless people attending outreach clinics has meant that more funds have been directed towards these services, leaving sick homeless people at "significant risk".
Social workers were due to carry out the work instead but they have now been instructed not to do so by their union IMPACT.
An internal memo from the social work department in St James's Hospital, sent to doctors yesterday, warned that homeless people are now at significant risk.
It said that on direction from the union, social workers can no longer directly contact the central placement service for the homeless in Parkgate Street "to highlight the patient's needs nor advocate on their behalf".
It said that "from today homeless patients discharged from the emergency department and acute beds can only present at the central placement service between 10am-12noon or 2-4pm Monday to Friday. They may also have to ring the freephone number in the hope that they may be able to arrange their own placement".
The memo warned that "this directive puts homeless people with health problems at significant risk".
It added: "In the past, if we became aware of a homeless person with an acute health issue, we have been able to prioritise them for placement, in order to promote recovery.
"With this new status quo, I'm concerned that sick homeless people will get sicker, as they attempt to arrange their own placements."
The social workers said the nature of their lifestyle and the pressures within the wider service makes it highly likely that many of their "clients will fail to arrange placements".
The memo continued: "We have all seen the awful impact of rough sleeping in cold weather and this directive clearly places more of our homeless patients at risk of it. I'm also concerned that it will result in the increased misuse of emergency departments as a form of overnight accommodation.
"This is just about the worst possible outcome for homeless people who have health issues."