THE Health Service Executive is losing €80 million a year caring for elderly people at home because of large-scale inefficiencies and a complete lack of regulation, a report has claimed.
The HSE has strongly denied the claims.
Lack of regulation for the home care sector is leading to fears that senior citizens are at risk of abuse due to unsuitably qualified, vetted or monitored care-givers.
An analysis of the HSE’s home care services carried out for the Irish Private Home Care Association has suggested an extra 16,500 elderly people could be cared for if savings were made. The report says health chiefs could cut costs by switching from public to private home care-providers.
Ed Murphy, President of the Irish Private Home Care Association, said the HSE needed to overhaul the home care market.
“Not only do professional private home care-providers offer a less expensive service, they provide quality home care as they adhere to a set of standards,” he said.
Home care services include household tasks, meal preparation, transport and personal care. The report claimed that of the HSE’s annual estimated spend of €340.27m on home care services, private home care companies provided just 4% of services.
By switching from public to private home care-providers, the association’s research claimed the HSE could save €79.83m.
Private carers were 29% cheaper than the public sector as the hourly cost by the public sector is €29.44, compared to €21 charged by private home care-providers, it found.
Age Action’s Eamon Timmins has backed calls for regulation in the sector.
“You can have someone who walks out of Mountjoy Prison and could have been serving a sentence for rape and they can go on to become a carer. We’re talking about looking after vulnerable people here but there’s no regulation. It has to be addressed as we have an aging population,” he said.
Last month, it emerged an HSE home help who found a 89-year-old’s ATM card and pin number had withdrawn €17,500 from his bank account.
The Irish Patients Association’s Stephen McMahon welcomed the report, saying: “We know of patients in hospitals who want to be discharged home with support services and other elderly folks who want to stay at home and live independent lives.”
But the HSE last night disputed the care association’s findings. It said the figures were wrong and the association had overpriced carers’ hourly pay.
It said the HSE was providing 11.98 million home help hours from its annual budget of €211m which meant the average rate was €17.61 per home help hour, including travel allowances and expenses. Some care rates were higher though, it conceded.
While the HSE admitted there is no statutory basis for regulation and inspection of home care services, it said it did supervise staff. Care staff were also trained and new employees received garda clearance, it said.
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