The home support service in the Cork and Kerry region has 21% fewer carers than before the pandemic as the HSE faces “significant recruitment challenges”.
Families relying on daycare centres have also been hit by “staffing-related issues” with just 70% of daycare centres in the region reopening since the lockdowns eased. This was contained in an update on services released by the Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation to Fine Gael TD Colm Burke.
However, it concedes “significant recruitment and retention challenges currently exist within the health sector.” Hiring carers to work with people in their homes is an immediate challenge, as the HSE is now delivering 45,000 hours of service to more than 7,000 clients just in these two counties.
They said a recruitment campaign is underway, hoping to find an additional 300 healthcare support assistants to meet growing demand from families determined to keep ailing relatives at home. Majella Beatty from advocacy group Care Champions said the shortages are frequently raised.
“There is more of a shortage now than in 2019, people are being left at high risk,” she said.
The advocacy group regularly receive calls from elderly people and families looking for help in sourcing home supports, including sometimes to stand-in when a HSE carer is ill.
“A lot of people are struggling to get the hours back which were pulled during the pandemic,” she said.
In some cases, people requested a temporary halt in their care during the first lockdown, but now are unable to replace those hours due to the shortages, she said.
Ms Beatty is aware of an elderly woman living on her own whose 21 hours of help were at first cut completely, then restored only to 14 hours following intervention by Care Champions and local politicians.
Daycare centres were another source of support, offering respite for people with dementia or people with disabilities as well as a range of other conditions.
“Some centres have not yet reopened due to staffing-related issues, as a number of Day Care Centre staff were redeployed to Covid testing centres while Day Care Centres were closed,” the HSE told Mr Burke.
The update refers to the “current climate of high demand for testing” and says this poses a challenge in some areas across Cork and Kerry as staff cannot yet return to their normal jobs. “The recruitment process for testing centre staff is underway and ongoing,” the update said.
The HSE also indicated progress on capital refurbishment in community hospitals is underway. Work on community hospitals in Skibbereen, Castletownbere, Cahirciveen and Listowel should be completed next month.
Works are scheduled for six other community hospitals including in Kanturk and Fermoy for next year and 2023. However, three sites including in Killarney and St Finbarr’s in Cork city are still awaiting the appointment of a contractor.
The HSE also said a home support pilot programme is running across Bandon, Carrigaline and Kinsale as a part of preparations to launch a statutory home support scheme in 2023. This will financially support home care in the same way the Fair Deal supports nursing home residents.