HSE overspending crisis to leave elderly waiting much longer for home help
The elderly and people with a disability will have to go on longer waiting lists for home help and home care packages, it was confirmed yesterday.
Too much of the HSE's budget for these vital supports has already been spent this year, leaving it with no option but to scale back on activity.
The HSE confirmed that because of pressures on hospital emergency departments in the first quarter of the year it had to over-spend on providing home help and home care packages in order to free up beds.
However, to avoid going massively over-budget at the end of the year - estimated to be around €14m by the Department of Health - it is now having to rein in spending until it is back on track.
The knock-on effect, as funds are being rationed, is that more people will have to wait longer for home supports.
A HSE spokesman said the target to deliver 10.4m home help hours and have 15,450 people receiving home care packages in 2016 remains unchanged. An additional €20m was allocated for home care this year.
While there are no cuts in funding, the pace at which it is spending its funding in this area will have to slow down. This should "balance itself out over the next few months", said the spokesman.
The crisis was spelt out to Health Minister Simon Harris and Disability Minister Finian McGrath in internal Department of Health briefing documents.
Several areas of the health service are now having to pull back on the flow of funds after over-spending earlier in the year in the run-up to the General Election.
Meanwhile, the HSE also confirmed that it is ending routine eye screening of fifth and sixth class primary school children.
The Association of Optometrists condemned the decision saying that while it accepted the HSE's argument that the effectiveness of the service was questionable, the service is being removed and not replaced or reformed.
Spokeswoman Lynda McGivney Nolan warned it will "further reduce eye-care services for children which are already highly compromised by waiting lists of up to five years for non-urgent cases and six months for urgent cases".
A HSE spokesman insisted yesterday: "Screening is now undertaken at an earlier age to ensure children with low vision are identified at the earliest possible stage and can access treatment services.
"Vision screening in schools is recommended at school entry. A review of the evidence suggests that vision screening at older age-groups results in very few or no new cases of eye pathology. Most countries do not advocate school-exit screening."
Also yesterday, the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, which represents emergency consultants, responded to revelations in the Irish Independent that 50,000 patients are leaving emergency departments before discharge. A spokesman said: "Inevitably there will be many these who suffered an adverse medical outcome as a result."