A CHILD who has severe cerebral palsy and a range of other disabilities spent unnecessary time in hospital when he could have been discharged sooner, according to an investigation report by Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan.
Ms Logan made a finding in favour of a family who brought a case to her as part of their fight to secure proper home care for the young boy.
She said she is of the view that the actions of the HSE resulted in a loss of opportunity for this child to receive additional home support.
The child had been cared for initially by the voluntary organisation, the Jack and Jill Foundation.
The organisation provided free nursing care until he was four.
Ms Logan looked at the actions of the HSE in providing home support services for the boy.
The parents said he needed 24 hour care arising from his level of disability and medical difficulties.
They contended that the HSE did not provide support for him.
"The father works nights and the mother is the primary carer for their three children – the child at the centre of this complaint, his twin and another younger child.
"On contacting this office, the parents advised that the support provided by the Jack and Jill Foundation ceases when a child reaches 4 years of age and they had sought that the HSE replace these hours in advance
"At the time of the complaint, the parents expressed concern that the HSE had advised that the hours would not be replaced.
"While home help was to continue they understood that home care services as they were currently receiving were not available from the HSE."
Ms Logan found the HSE home support since 2011 was three hours per week.
It increased to four hours per week in 2012 and, in recognition of growing care needs, to nine hours per week in 2013.
The Jack and Jill Foundation gave the family temporary relief by providing additional personal care hours to that supplied by the HSE and a review was due earlier this year.
Ms Logan's report said: "It is also clear that the child at the centre of this complaint is not the only child to be affected by the absence of a national home support policy and assessment tool.
"In other jurisdictions models of good practice for children with continuing care needs are underpinned by a philosophy of care that puts children and families at the centre."
She recommended the HSE should establish a model of home care packages for children and develop a national policy.
In particular, consideration should be given to those children with disabilities with enhanced care needs and the model of provision to most appropriately address their needs.
"This should specifically address home care support and a policy should be put in place to ensure appropriate guidance for this service provision.
"The HSE should ensure a clear pathway for access to such services for children.
"In the absence of same there is a potential for children to remain hospitalised for longer periods than is necessary."
The HSE said there is currently no standard national assessment tool for assessing children's needs for home support.
Discussion is currently taking place between the National Disability Authority and the HSE around tools for standardised global assessment of all service users.
Health & Living