Freeze on home helps must go

Mr. Bernard Gloster, HSE. Picture: Press 22

MORE than 500 people in Limerick and the Mid West are waiting for vital home help services they have been approved for while the HSE has put a freeze on hiring new people.

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, criticised the practice of putting a cap on the home support service, as waiting list data released to him showed that waiting lists grew by nearly 600 people between April and May to 6,819 people.

The Limerick City TD said: “Figures released to Sinn Féin by the HSE have shown that as of May 31, there were 6,819 people were waiting for funding for a home support service.

“This number has soared by 581 since I previously received the same data from the HSE in March. The sole reason for this increase has been the freezing of the home help service by the HSE.

“The people on this list are entitled to this service – they have been assessed and approved for home support, but they cannot be facilitated because of the freeze in the service.

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Describing the system as a post-code lottery, Deputy Quinlivan said “the county or area where you live defines whether you can get the service or if you join a waiting list of hundreds.

“The home help service is one of the best value-for-money services in the health service – properly funding it saves millions by keeping people in their homes and out of hospitals or nursing homes.

“It is not possible for the government or the HSE to stand over undermining this service -they have essentially pulled down the shutters on the home help service and stuck a closed until further notice sign outside – but this is an invaluable health service, and through their actions they are denying people care.”

In a statement to the Limerick Post, a spokesman for HSE Mid West Community Healthcare said they were concerned that there is a continuous reference to cut backs in home support.

While we do not have what we need to meet all the demand, we do have  1.475 million hours this year. For the first half of the year we were due to deliver 731,000 hours and in fact we delivered 757,000 hours, that does not by any means equate to a cutback.

“We are obliged to live within the budget allocated to us and in fact the HSE is regularly criticised for over spending and having a deficit.  Our agreement in law is to deliver on a service plan which has both a home support budget and target.  In the Mid West we will deliver on both,” the spokesman said.

HSE Mid West Community Healthcare Chief Officer Bernard Gloster said that the Mid West represented around ten per cent of the national waiting list of more than 6,000.

“This would normally be our proportion of many health resource statistics.  In any waiting list we prioritise based on clinical need, the need to leave hospital on time, end of life care and we further take account of the other supports people might have available to them such as day centres.

“In the ageing population and changing circumstances the demand is not surprising and while we cannot meet all demand, we are not cutting back on what we are funded to do,” he maintained.