In the end, no amount of red tape could withstand the outrage on the national airwaves, and the threat of separating an elderly couple after 63 years of marriage evaporated.
Michael and Kathleen Devereaux will live out their days together in a Wexford nursing home after the Devereaux family highlighted their plight on RTE’s Liveline programme and the HSE was forced to backtrack through acres of bureaucracy.
On Monday, Michael, just shy of 91, said he felt his head “was going to burst” at the thought of being separated from the love of his life.
Their son, Tom, applied to the HSE under the Fair Deal scheme to place the couple together in a nursing home, with Kathleen’s case supported by her GP.
However, while Michael was deemed suitable for admission to a nursing home, Kathleen was assessed as suitable for home supports, once she was discharged from hospital.
Amid widespread condemnation of this approach to nursing home care — Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described it as “devoid of common sense and devoid of humanity” — Michael and Kathleen are soon to be reunited.
In a statement, the HSE said arrangements were being made through its transitional care service “to facilitate Mrs Devereaux’s transfer today to her husband’s nursing home”.
They are also conducting an immediate review of her care needs, with any change in circumstances taken account of “to ensure the person receives the appropriate care and support they need”.
Health Minister Simon Harris said he was pleased the situation had been addressed by the HSE “with compassion and recognition for the family’s circumstances”.
He said he looked forward to seeing Michael and Kathleen reunited.
Minister of state for older people Jim Daly said he was asking the HSE “to look at how this particular case was handled”.
“We must ensure that officials are applying compassion when deciding on applications in certain unique and exceptional circumstances,” said Mr Daly.
The Devereaux family was celebrating yesterday. Yesterday, Tom said on Liveline, where much of the outrage had been channelled, that his parents are “much happier now, Joe”.
Tom had got a phonecall from the minister, via junior defence minister Paul Kehoe, to tell him the HSE had agreed his mother could join his father.
“I’m assuming it’s going to be in the next day or two or three, but the main thing is she will be reunited with Michael,” Tom said.
Tom said the minister had been “horrified” at the application of the nursing home legislation in the case of his parents.
“There must be compassion shown in cases where people have been married for a considerable length of time and are elderly,” he said.
Tom said there were “moves afoot” to improve the application process.
“I pointed out that there was no facility in the process for an oral hearing in the legislation,” he said. “That can only take place if the appeals officer deems it’s relevant. So there is really no voice for an applicant or a family.”
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