6,300 patients on home help waiting list putting 'severe pressures' on services

More than 6,000 patients are waiting for home-help hours and support causing delays to hospital discharges and take up beds in acute facilities.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney faced Dáil questions today over the growing delays faced by people in need of the home care packages, including claims only dying patients will get home-help hours.

Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary said figures provided to his party revealed that thousands of people are unable to go home: “What we do know is that the home help waiting list has 6,300 people on it as we speak. That is 6,300 patients, many of whom might be in hospital and many of whom might be in an acute hospital and who would be far better off at home.”

He said that potentially there may be shortages of hundreds of thousands of hours for the elderly and frail among others by the end of the year: “There will be a shortage of 400,000 hours by the end of the year.

All of our experiences suggest this trend is not only continuing but it is getting worse and the number of people receiving home care is less than what the HSE itself targeted.

Mr Calleary also claimed some health officials are only willing to supply home help hours for dying patients.

Mr Coveney responded that some 7.5 million hours have been provided for home help this year, but this was 2% below target. More support is needed, he conceded.

“We are aware of the severe pressures on the supports needed to allow discharge from hospital. There are broader challenges with a significant increase in demand for home care packages given the ageing population and the increasing number of people who want support to live as independently as they can at home.

"We are responding to that by increasing budgets, hours and available resources, but work clearly remains to be done in the area.”

Meanwhile, Mr Coveney also came under pressure to raise the plight of migrant children in dire conditions in detention camps in America when US vice president Mike Pence visits Ireland in September.

Solidarity-PBP TD Paul Murphy told him: “They [the children] have been separated from their parents and crammed together in massively overcrowded warehouses. In many cases, they are held for weeks in very cold temperatures, with lights on 24 hours a day and without adequate access to medical care, sanitation, soap, water or food.

It is the grossest, most inhumane and most depraved expression of Trump's anti-immigrant, racist policies. The centres meet the definition of concentration camps. They are a mass incarceration of people, in this case children, without trial.

Mr Coveney declined to say if Taoiseach Leo Varadkar raised concerns about the migrant children in camps during his recent meeting with US president Donald Trump or whether he would with Mr Pence.

Instead, he highlighted the care of minors fleeing conflict and poverty and being held in Europe: "When refugees and asylum seekers cross a border, there are international standards that should be expected and delivered, particularly in the protection of children.

"The migration challenges and the suffering of children is not solely confined to the camps we see in the United States and the European Union must also look at itself with regard to questions around migration."

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