There are now nearly 1,000 people waiting for homecare in Cork and Kerry - among the more than 6,000 who are waiting nationally - due to the critical shortage of carers.
The Munster figure has risen from 800 people in March to 970, while the national figure has also jumped - from the 5,000 waiting at the end of last year. Most of those on the waiting list are elderly.
Some 17 areas across Cork and Kerry have now been prioritised for new carers such is the demand. These include Tralee, Dingle, Listowel, Bantry, Skibbereen and Carrigaline, a spokeswoman for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare said.
This year 150 new carers, formally known as Health Care Support Assistants (HCSA), have been recruited, including 66 hired in May. However, only 54 have started or are due to start within weeks, while 17 withdrew and the remainder are going through a vetting process.
“Given the vulnerable population that HCSA staff provide services to, the recruitment clearance process is a rigorous process with a number of different elements to it which must be satisfactorily completed in advance of commencing their roles,” the spokeswoman said.
The salary scale is €29,710 to €38,290, with paid travel time and expenses. More than 1.6 million hours were provided to older people across these two counties up to July. Carers worked with 9,144 people.
At national level, there are now 6,035 elderly people who have been approved for a care package but the HSE cannot find enough carers to deliver their supports. In contrast just 56 people have been approved and are waiting on funding.
Despite recent investment in homecare, including an additional €50m in this year’s budget, the HSE and private companies are struggling to hire staff. The HSE has now hired two specialist recruiters to work with the national Home Support service to fast-track hiring.
Also at national level, a spokesman pointed to the Strategic Workforce Advisory Group which is examining working conditions in this sector. Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI) representing private home care providers, urged this group to publish its recommendations.
HCCI CEO Joseph Musgrave said these recommendations are vital for change. “Without a strategic workforce recruitment and retention plan our members will struggle to deliver home care to all who need it this winter,” he said.
HSE CEO Paul Reid has highlighted the growing needs of some elderly people following prolonged isolation and delayed care during the pandemic.
“I was in University Hospital Waterford two weeks ago, of a 450-bed hospital, 270 of the patients were over the age of 75,” he told the Oireachtas Health Committee.
“There is modelling done by Dr Colm Henry and others, which looked at the frailty rate of a 76-year-old now versus the frailty rate of a 76-year-old two years ago. Certainly it has deteriorated.”