HSE staffing crisis sees home help money lying idle

Galway families caring for loved ones and desperate to avail of the HSE’s home help service have been told that while the money is there, the staff are not.

In fact, for the ‘CHO 2’ (Community Healthcare Organisation) area which covers Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, there were 45,000 unused home care hours in the first three months of this year which had been paid for by the HSE, but no staff were available to carry out the hours.

At the moment, one in every four people in the country waiting for home help are in the CHO 2 area.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, Minister of State at the Department of Health, Jim Daly, said there are “capacity issues” and repeated his assertion that the current system is not fit for purpose.

He was told by Roscommon-Galway TD Eugene Murphy that he has had at least twelve families into his constituency office in tears because they have been unable to get home help.

“What is going on in the CHO 2 area with home care is shocking and appalling. I do not believe it is a staff issue,” said Deputy Murphy.

Minister Daly said there were ‘capacity issues’ relating to staff in the area.

“The overall budget for home support services for people living in the CHO 2 catchment area increased in 2017 and 2018 and is now just over €43 million. This funding will deliver more than 1.9 million home support hours.

“During the first three months of this year, 430,832 hours were delivered against a target of 475,893 hours, which is 45,000 hours below target.

“Some parts of the country, including CHO 2, are experiencing capacity issues relating to the availability of home care staff.

“I have been advised by the HSE that CHO 2 is working towards increasing capacity and is committed to providing its targeted hours by year end. With that in mind, CHO 2 is increasing its monthly spend on home support services to ensure delivery of full year service plan targets.

“I can assure the Deputy that there are not enough resources but the particular issue he is experiencing in his area is a capacity issue involving staff availability. It is the same in my area of west Cork, as I mentioned. There are 45,000 hours which have been paid for but not used in CHO 2, which is a management issue for the HSE to address. It has assured me that it will up the ante in that regard and spend every euro it has been given on home help by year end.

At the end of March, of the 6,458 older people waiting for home support nationwide, 1,482 were in the CHO 2 area.

Minister Daly told the Dáil: “I have stood over my commitment to bring about the scheme for home care to mirror the fair deal scheme and ensure people will be guaranteed access to the home care they require under statute, in a similar manner to the fair deal scheme, which we developed and which has grown and been committed to.

“Nobody has to wait for more four weeks under the commitments in the fair deal scheme. It is guaranteed by statute that everybody who wants to avail of it will get it and will not have to wait any more than four weeks.

“I want a similar scheme to be established to allow people to continue to live in their homes. I have put a timeline of two to three years on that and we are about nine or ten months into the process. It will take another two years to bring about the scheme and ensure it is delivered by statute and properly funded.

“The issues include the availability of staff to fill posts and their terms and conditions.

“I have said on the record that the current system is not fit for purpose and that is why I want to design a properly funded, equitable, fair, transparent and efficient service for home help,” said Minister Daly.

The home help service provides support to people who need assistance with everyday tasks because of illness or disability. The service is aimed at helping people in their own home and to avoid going in to long-term care.

Home helps provide assistance with washing, taking a shower, assistance with changing position, oral hygiene, or help at mealtimes. Domestic duties include lighting a fire or bringing in fuel if there is no alternative heating source, or essential cleaning of the person’s personal space.