The crisis facing the home care sector was laid bare in the Dáil this week by Sinn Fein TD Ruairi O’Murchú who raised the issue of the chronic lack of carers locally with Minister of State Mary Butler.
According to Deputy O’Murchú a lack of bodies rather than a lack of money is making it very difficult for the HSE to deliver homecare packags for the elderly who wish to stay in their homes in Co. Louth.
The Sinn Féin TD raised the issue of a chronic lack of carers and the impact it has on families in Louth during Topical Issues in the Dáil last week.
He raised three local cases directly with Minister of State Mary Butler, who admitted the issue was not with money, but rather with getting staff.
Deputy Ó Murchú highlighted how one 61-year-old woman from North Louth who is still in hospital awaiting the care package she needs following stroke.
He said: ‘The family has also been absolutely clear from the outset that this woman will not go into a nursing home’.
The Dundalk deputy also spoke about the case of a 93-year-old lady who spent a few days in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. She was discharged but a care plan was not put in place and no advice was provided to her daughter.
She made contact with a district nurse who was very busy and it was not possible to get a meeting for about a week.
And the third case involved a 74-year-old lady from North Louth with advanced dementia. She had secured home care but not sufficient care for the weekends. The situation is the same months later.
He said: ‘We are dealing with a family whose members are exhausted and at their wits’ end. They are doing everything they can to try to give the required care to this lady on the weekends.
‘We are again talking about people doing their absolute best. It is, though, keeping an engine going with baling twine. It is not good enough. If we are talking about home care as an alternative to nursing home care, then we must offer people what is necessary’.
Minister Butler replied that it is a ‘key priority’ for government.
She said: ‘To advance this, the government is committed to establishing a new statutory scheme on home support. In July, I announced the selection of four sites to test a reformed model of service delivery, through the delivery of 230,000 hours of home support, including CHO8.
‘This pilot will underpin the development of the statutory scheme for home support services and will be fully operational on 1 November.
‘A national home support office will also be established before the end of this year to support the testing of the reformed model of service delivery.
‘We have established a strategic workforce advisory group with the involvement of key stakeholders, including representatives from the sector, education and the Government.
‘The government is prioritising improving access to home support services for older people. An additional €150 million was allocated in budget 2021 to provide for 24 million hours of home support.
‘The difference now is that in other years, we did not have the funding. This year, I have the funding but we have a shortage of staff.
‘There is also another option that is taken up by very few families. It is in place since 2018, but it has not been spoken about very much.
‘There is an option for people to receive the funding allocation it would cost the HSE provide the package and for them to hire the staff themselves.
‘We are also looking at weekends. For most people, home care is not an issue from Monday to Friday, but Saturdays and Sundays are an issue. We are looking at providing financial support to people at the weekend and they might be able to get help in themselves’.