Care homes idle over lack of staff

THREE family homes for patients wanting to leave institutional care have been left lying empty for seven years by health chiefs.

It has emerged patients from St Peter’s Hospital, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, are unable to move into the houses because the Health Service Executive (HSE) cannot afford to staff the homes.

The cost to staff the three homes, bought as part of a plan to house 70 people from an institute for adults with special needs is €1.5 million, nearly three times more than health chiefs paid for the houses in 2001.

Labour’s Roisin Shortall yesterday berated the HSE for ever spending funds on the houses: “It’s an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money,” the TD told the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.

There is a “serious mismatch” in capital funding by the HSE and its-day-to day funding, she said.

The HSE’s national director of shared services yesterday admitted there was a question of why the three homes had been purchased in the first place but that the houses could not be opened for patients without a “business plan” and staff funding.

Ms Shortall said that this was “cold comfort for families in the disposition”.

Elsewhere, HSE chief Professor Brendan Drumm conceded next year was going to be an “even more difficult year” for the health services following a change in the economy.

Prof Drumm warned that the new consultants contract was a “critical component”, if services were to work.

There was still the challenge of further reducing Accident and Emergency (A&E) waiting times, the committee were told.

Dublin patients had a record of not changing over to GP services and often going to A&E for minor reasons, he said.

Dublin was one of the most “unique” cities in the world having six A&E’s open at any one time, TDs were told.

Many hospitals also had too many doctors and sometimes a ratio of two to three for every patient admitted in day, the HSE chief added.


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