Harris admits he has to do more to help the elderly
The plight of older people having to go into nursing homes because they cannot secure HSE home care and other supports is a "very serious issue", Health Minister Simon Harris has admitted.
He was commenting after the Irish Independent revealed how older people in rural Ireland in particular are left behind because of a lack of home care services and public transport.
"We want to keep people out of nursing homes and enable them to grow old with dignity in their own home. We need to do something radically different in terms of the range of home supports that we provide," he added.
"As a Government, we have dramatically increased the number of home-help hours this year. We'll be providing three-quarters of a million more hours of home help in 2018, but it is not enough. We have to take the next step."
The HSE conceded yesterday that its delivery of 10.385 million home help hours last year was "under target".
However, 19,807 people got a home care package, which was "in excess of its target of 16,750".
The HSE has been criticised for having a postcode lottery where some areas of the country are better funded for home care supports than others.
A spokeswoman said this year the HSE would streamline the home care packages scheme and home help services.
This was a move towards a "single-funded home support service".
She said: "This new approach will provide significant benefits for the service users, the public and the health system by making the services easier to understand and streamlining application processes so the requirement is to make only one application for home support services for older people."
It would also spare those people whose needs change from going through a separate application process, she added.
The HSE said that in 2018, some 17.094 million home support hours were expected to be provided to 50,500 people.
This amounts to an increase of 754,000 hours, which would benefit 500 people this year.
Sean Moynihan, of support body Alone, called for more investment in helping people to adapt their homes.
Tadhg Daly, of Nursing Homes Ireland, reiterated his demand to set up a forum to set policy and resource planning for the healthcare needs of our rapidly growing older population.
"The Government must plan now," he warned.