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Thursday 18 January 2018

Home-help firm faced funding cut after HSE probe into €1m

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

A CONTROVERSIAL home-help company was threatened with having its health service funding withdrawn after it failed to account for more than €1m in State cash.

The threat followed a Health Service Executive (HSE) probe into the not-for-profit Clontarf Home Care Service in north Dublin, the Irish Independent has learned.

The HSE began an inquiry into the running of the service after an RTE 'Prime Time' documentary raised concerns over the quality of the care provided.

As part of the investigation, HSE official Dr Austin Warters was given a list of home-help clients, whose care was paid for through government funding. However, when the list was examined over the course of a five-week investigation, the HSE found:

• Of the 260 people listed, just 109 were receiving the correct number of hours in care.

• 16 people who were listed as receiving 35 hours of home help weekly were dead.

• 10 people who were supposed to be receiving 22 hours of home help each week were in long-term care elsewhere.

One house was visited where three clients were listed as getting home help, but it turned out to be up for sale. One of the three was dead, another was in a nursing home and the third had never lived there.

The investigation was conducted last year.

The HSE subsequently wrote to the board of the care service, warning it risked having its funding stopped.

The findings were disputed by the care service. Replying to the HSE, it denied any wrongdoing but admitted the client list which was given to the investigation was "not robust enough", in that it did not filter clients who had died, were in a nursing home or in hospital.

Anonymous

If the company had known how the list was going to be used by the HSE, it would have provided a list "more suited to that use", it said.

The service said client data on its payroll was more accurate and this was later sent to the HSE. It also insisted hours were made up later in cases where care was billed for but not provided.

The response also criticised the HSE report for giving "vague and anonymous" accounts of the home visits.

Contacted by the Irish Independent, the HSE said there had been substantial changes to the board in the past year which had led to significant improvement in the quality and operation of the service.

The company continues to be funded and has received €1.08m so far this year.

Irish Independent

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