A man living with multiple sclerosis (MS) has said a new shortage of home carers means he is at risk of becoming one of the hundreds of younger people needlessly sent to live in a nursing home.
Gavin Fannin (48) had his home care hours removed on Friday because of staff shortages. Mr Fannin lives in Dublin and was receiving 41 hours of care per week via the HSE from a private provider. He has lived with MS for 25 years.
He says new rules to make the nursing home sector more attractive to foreign workers by offering Irish residency after two years have had the unintended effect of pulling staff away from home care roles, which allow people with additional needs to remain living in their own homes.
“I got notice on Wednesday evening that the entire service would be cut on Friday. Now not even like two calls a day, everything was gone,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline.
“I spent quite a long time in hospital during last year and the start of this year where we were waiting to get more hours and they were eventually granted even though social workers and others told me that they would never be granted.”
Mr Fannin feels that he is being “pushed” into a nursing home.
“They seem to have been granted because of the Ombudsman report into almost 1,500 people in Ireland under the age of 50 who have been put into nursing homes. The report was titled ‘Wasted Lives’ and that’s exactly what is going on and it seems that I’m just being pushed and cornered into a nursing home,” he said.
The Ombudsman Peter Tyndall published his report ‘Wasted Lives: Time for a better future for younger people in nursing homes’ in May of this year, which identified at least 1,300 young people with a disability living in nursing homes that are not appropriate to their needs.
Mr Fannin added: “I’ve had MS for 25 years and I’ve dealt with all the ups and downs but right now I’m really scared because there’s nobody. I’m an Ireland fan I love the country but I can’t understand what’s happening here that the most vulnerable in our society are literally being left to die.
“There are people today right now lying in their own faeces because they have no carers. I don’t want to start pointing the finger I just want a solution today.”
Other people told Liveline of similar problems, with home care hours being withdrawn, with some blaming the new scheme for care home workers, and others blaming poor pay and conditions for home carer workers, most of whom are employed through agencies.
Mr Fannin said his home care provider was struggling to find staff because of the visa programme that was given to nursing homes. People who work in care homes will now receive a residency visa after two years.
“For one reason or another the providers of the care claimed that they didn’t have enough staff to provide the care so I’m just at a loss here, I just don’t know where to turn,” he said.
“I get two carers and I have to be hoisted out of bed and they will put me into the shower, dress me, hoist me into my wheelchair then feed me and give me medications. I’m pretty helpless at the moment there’s very little I can do for myself.”
Mr Fannin said his homecare is absolutely “essential” for his mental health.
“This homecare is absolutely essential because without it I would just go into a massive depression. They come in at nine in the morning, one o’clock in the afternoon, six o’clock in the evening and nine o’clock at night all for one-hour visits,” he said.
“I’m up at nine and I’m in bed at nine it’s not ideal but it’s the best situation I can have because hospitals are totally overwhelmed, I don’t want to be going into hospital and certainly not a care home that’s for sure.
“There are only two care homes in Kildare that people under 50 can go to every other care home is for people aged 65 and over. I can’t even afford a nursing home – yes, the Government will pay for a roof and a bed but everything else is extra in a nursing home. Haircuts, entertainment and transport you get invoiced every week for that.”
Mr Fannin’s brother has had to take time off work to care for him over the weekend.
“I’m very scared. I’ve no care today I’ve two friends coming over tonight to feed me and put me into bed,” Mr Fannin said.
“I’m not the only person here, there are hundreds of people around the country this very minute who have no care. Families are pulling their hair out and people are terrified.”
Mr Fannin said working conditions need to be improved for healthcare workers, he said: “The one thing that Covid has taught me through this whole pandemic is that frontline, lowest paid workers, turned out to be the most important workers in our society.”
“We need to improve conditions, if you can’t pay them more then conditions need to be better and then there won’t be a staff shortage.”
In response, a spokesperson for the HSE said it continues to work towards increasing home support provision.
The spokesperson said that at end of September over 15 million home support hours had been provided to 53,335 people this year to date.
“This is approximately 2.2 million more hours compared to the same period last year,” the HSE said.
“There can be delays between funding approval and delivery of home support hours, largely due to staffing issues, with particular local areas experiencing increased pressures. Challenges in capacity have resulted in increased number of clients assessed and waiting for carers to be assigned to commence their service.
“Efforts are ongoing to meet the demand for home support services. The HSE continues to advertise on an ongoing basis for Health Care Assistants and recruits as many suitable candidates, where possible. Approved Home Support Providers also continue to recruit home support workers, despite ongoing challenges.”
“The HSE does not want to deplete any health service employees in the private or public sector and is not targeting staff from nursing homes. The HSE advertises posts in a transparent and open way and candidates who consider they meet the criteria are eligible to apply,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson added: “In addition, the Department of Health is committed to establishing a Strategic Workforce Advisory Group with involvement of key stakeholders including representatives from the sector, education and government. The Group will provide a forum for practical action and collaboration aimed at addressing the skills needs of the sector including recruitment, retention, pay and conditions, skills development and sustainable employment into the future.”