Prime Time revealed that there was no regulation of these private companies. It is easy to understand why. If you want to privatise home care you have to make it a good prospect for private companies, especially American healthcare companies. These companies shy away from regulation, because they know that it will be difficult to do what we saw being done in the Prime Time programme; using untrained, uninvestigated staff and setting a low time limit for the carer to stay in the client’s home. Training costs the company money and reduces profits. Allowing the carer to stay in the client’s home for as long as necessary cost money and reduces profits. Private healthcare is all about making profit. So by not regulating this sector, those responsible for farming out homecare are assuring private companies that profits will be made.
Another thing that helps private companies is to reduce competition from the public health service, by embargoing recruitment of HSE staff, which is what has happened. 90% of home care is provided by the HSE. The reason the other 10% isn’t provided is because the HSE is short of staff to provide home care. It can be seen now how, with embargoes on recruitment and no regulation, the private sector will take over more and more of the home care sector.
What was revealing in the Prime Time Programme was the response the Minister for Older People Aine Brady gave to the question, why aren’t these private companies regulated? She immediately gave the same answer that politicians following a neo-liberal agenda always give when a lack of regulation is highlighted: Regulation isn’t necessarily the answer. Yes it is, and it should be introduced immediately.If it was, I can see a lot of these greedy private providers disappear, perhaps only leaving the decent private home care providers, who are just as disgusted by what was revealed as the rest of us.
In my view what should happen is all the companies whose staff, including owners and managers who were responsible for the abuse and humiliation suffered by these elderly people, should have their contracts closed and be taken to court to get back any taxpayers money paid to them.
Aine Brady should resign without delay. Most important of all, the person who has overall responsibility for health care, Mary Harney, should resign immediately. Of course no one will resign. I only hope the public will punish these people at the next election.