Seriously ill patients are being refused home help hours due to the HSE’s dire financial circumstances — with some terminally ill people receiving just four hours of support a week.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation claims the situation has been like this in Cork since June, and is likely to be occurring throughout the rest of the country.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Patsy Doyle, the union’s industrial relations officer, said hundreds of people who should be receiving the state help are being turned down for the support.
She said this is because the HSE has recently transferred the home help service to a new Home Support Office, meaning there is a tighter budget and assessment programme for new patients and elderly people applying for the help.
While the de facto block is not affecting many of the worst cases, it is understood at least one terminally ill patient in the North Lee area of Cork has been told they can only receive four hours of home help care per week.
“The HSE South has chosen to ignore the assessments undertaken by public health nurses which demonstrate the need to place a home help in support of a patient at home,” warned Ms Doyle.
“The HSE has turned its back on this expertise and has persistently denied this vital service to new applicants in North Lee.
“If care at home is to be the cornerstone of the successor to the HSE, the public health nurses’ recommendations for home helps must not be overlooked and banished into the ether.
“Instead, resources must be protected and applied to the area of greatest need,” she said.
Responding to the union’s claims, a HSE South spokesperson said home help hours are reviewed “based on the funding and staff resources available”.
While the HSE South has “re-assured existing and potential clients that new home help hours are being approved”, these are subject to new, tighter criteria.
Among the changes are that new home help hours will only be available to people “who have a requirement based on assessed need and within the available resources”.
The spokesperson said “no current recipient” who has been assessed will see the service “fully withdrawn”.
“In 2012, based on the funding and staff resources available, the HSE must ensure it prioritises the allocation of home help hours to those who most need the service,” he said.
The cutbacks on home help, an area name-checked by Health Minister Dr James Reilly as key to his reform plans, relate to a recent circular sent to all parts of the HSE warning that stringent spending cuts need to take place.
Figures revealed last week show that the national HSE deficit to date currently stands at €298m. The HSE South is budgeted to provide home help services to 15,000 people this year, costing €70m. About 6,400 people in Cork currently receive the support.
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