Thursday 20 June 2019

Home help services in limbo

Moynihan - restrictions on home help services are 'disgraceful'

Bill Browne

The restriction on new applicants for home help service will have a negative consequence for all acute medical services in Cork and families waiting on hours to be assigned.

That's according to Cork North West Fianna Fail TD Michael Moynihan, who said it was "disgraceful" that such restrictions are in place for home help services. 

The service is open to people over 65 and is aimed at helping them with everyday tasks.

This week the Irish Examiner reported that the HSE service, which is key to helping elderly people remain in their homes has been effectively closed until next November. This at a time when there are more than 6,000 applicants on waiting lists. 

The HSE has said the restrictions are the result of a new nationally negotiated contract that will see health care support assistants paid for their time travelling to homes. Under the contract, the nine community healthcare organisations will be expected to meet these extra costs from their home support budgets 

A HSE spokesperson said that while there was a budget increase this year, that would not allow them to deliver an overall increase in the number of hours of care delivered, as the cost delivering the service had increased. 

The spokesperson said that in order to balance the budget for 2019 there would be a reduction in the level of new hours provided compared to the early part of this year and that would continue until November. 

While the HSE said they would be allocated some new hours, it would not be as many as they would like. 

They also confirmed there would be a reduction in the amount of reallocating hours when people do not take up the offer of home support.  

Deputy Moynihan said the block on services would inevitably see an increase in the numbers of people staying in hospital. 

"It is disgraceful that there are such restrictions on home help services. What is most concerning is the families and clients already in receipt of home help hours who will not receive additional hours if their condition worsens. As people age there is a high probability that their needs increase. For the HSE not to issue additional hours to people who need them is cruel," he said. 

"The block on services provided will see an increase in those staying in hospital. Pro-longed hospital stays result in beds in use longer than they should be. A reduction in home help hours has collateral damage for all health services in the region," he added. 

Deputy Moynihan called for the issue to be revisited, saying it went directly against Government policy of keeping people in their own homes for longer.