Tuesday 16 July 2019

Eilish O'Regan: 'Disability providers for 20,000 people are on a financial cliff edge'

Challenging times: Health Minister Simon Harris, left, speaking to HSE director general Paul Reid. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Challenging times: Health Minister Simon Harris, left, speaking to HSE director general Paul Reid. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Organisations funded by the HSE that provide care to 20,000 vulnerable people with disabilities are on a financial "cliff edge", the Oireachtas health committee will be told today.

Disability providers will appear before the committee claiming a report shows they are struggling because the HSE is not paying the full economic cost for services delivered.

Mo Flynn, chief executive of RehabCare, will say "these organisations have exhausted their economic reserves".

Writing in the Irish Independent today, she warns other pressures include the extra costs they must bear to meet the regulations of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

Ms Flynn points out that "many of them are working with unsustainable deficits and board members, bound by legislation, who simply cannot trade recklessly. These challenges are made more difficult by the lack of a Government policy framework for the current and future role of these organisations.

"Recently our own organisation, RehabCare, was staring down of the barrel of having to close our doors to the 3,000 people we serve owing to an unsustainable funding deficit.

"We made the unprecedented decision to tell our funders, the HSE, that we could no longer continue under the considerable weight of the knowledge of the stress and anxiety this would cause the people in our services and their often hard-pressed families.

"We had reached the end of the road and urgently needed financial support."

She says the disability providers need to issue a stark warning that the entire disability sector is in the same position: "It is on the brink of collapse. We hope this warning will not fall on deaf ears."

Many independent disability service providers are just a few shorts steps from closing their doors, Ms Flynn writes.

The report, 'Who Cares? - Building a new relationship between the not-for-profit sector and the State', concludes the relationship between the State and independent disability services providers has broken down and there is an urgent need to place it on a new footing.

"Having continued to try to meet the burgeoning need in the community in the form of respite, day services, resource and supported accommodation services to adults and children during a recessionary hit country beset by crippling cuts, it is no surprise that the sector has ended up with a deep hole in its finances," it says.

Irish Independent

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