The HSE has been accused by Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish of encouraging families of older people to use day care centres as a money-saving alternative to nursing home care.
He told the Dáil that people with alcohol addiction problems were also being similarly diverted from hospital in Galway to an addiction treatment centre in the county run by a voluntary rehabilitation organisation.
Speaking in favour of a motion tabled by Independent TD last week seeking greater homecare supports for older people, Deputy Grealish paid tribute to the work done by day care centres, like the one in Claregalway, to help older people continue to live independent healthy lives.
But, he claimed that more and more, and especially over the past number of months, the HSE were actually telling older people to go out there rather than go into residential care.
“They tell the families, that it’s actually cheaper to put them into the day care centre than to put them into the nursing home.
“They are actually using the day care centres now as nursing homes and they are not giving one iota of money to the day care centres to provide that service.
“I think that is an absolute scandal, there’s health care workers doing that, and it’s going on around the country,” said Deputy Grealish.
He said the same practice was happening in relation to Cuan Mhuire, the charitable drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation organisation which operates a centre in Coolarne, Turloughmore.
“A person who goes into a hospital with a drink problem is told to get there. The hospital pays a taxi out to Cuan Mhuire … and they tell Sister Consilio ‘that is your problem now, not our problem’.
“That is what is going on out there and that has to be addressed urgently.”
Deputy Grealish also made an appeal for a new day care centre for older people in Claregalway, to replace the current facility, which opened in 2012 after a group of local people got together to provide a day care service for people of the village and surrounding area.
“They have got planning permission for a new day care centre in Claregalway, an elderly retirement village. The land was given free of charge by a local farmer, to build this new day care centre and to build nine or ten independent living units.
“And fair play to the Department of the Environment, they are providing the funding to build the independent units, but nobody wants to give funding toward the construction of the day care centre.”
He urged the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, to look into the matter and see could funding be provided by the State for the facility.
The Galway West TD said that the current centre was supported by fully qualified staff and care assistants, and a wheelchair accessible bus service was available to bring people to and from the centre.
But while it did get funding from the HSE, it was barely enough to pay for even one month of services provided throughout the year.