Fianna Fail TD Eugene Murphy has said that the curtailment of agencies in the provision of home care packages could save millions.
The proposal comes following a number of local cases which have been affected by last months news that the HSE has over-run it’s Home Care package budget for counties Roscommon, Mayo and Galway.
Deputy Murphy says that savings generated by the removal of “middle men” would ultimately lead to more sick and older people being able to be cared in their own homes for as long as possible. The Fianna Fail TD has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to address this issue of national importance prior to the forthcoming budget as he believes the situation is fast developing into a crisis.
Deputy Murphy highlighted the case of a terminally ill woman in Roscommon who is going to have her home care package cut from six hours to just four hours per week and he noted that the current agency led care approach was leading to spiralling costs and zero contract hours for Carers.
He also highlighted the tragic case of ‘Mary’ an 83 year-old woman from County Roscommon who is still awaiting a home care package following the death of her daughter in recent weeks.
“Mary tragically lost her eldest daughter in recent weeks. Mary is elderly and has very significant mobility issues, as well as dementia, she cannot be left unattended. Mary’s elder daughter was her carer at the weekends while the younger daughter cares for her during the week, and has done so for the last year since the loss of Mary’s husband. The younger daughter leaves her family in a neighbouring county and travels to Roscommon to stay with her mother from Monday to Friday and then works at the weekend. She is in receipt of Carer’s Allowance and is allowed to work 15 hours and needs to do so in order to keep her job. The family need some home care package to help cover weekends now that the elder daughter has passed away. They are willing to pay for private care at night time and are just looking for some help at the weekends but they are not optimistic about getting a home care package- this is simply outrageous- there is no compassion. If the family do not get some help towards care at weekends they will be left with no other option than to consider long term care which will ultimately end up costing the State more in the long run so it just doesn’t make sense,” said Deputy Murphy.
“In County Roscommon alone there are a number of different agencies who deal with allocation of the carers hours. Therefore that is a considerable amount of middle men, managers and admin staff which are all paid for out of the same budget. The HSE pay the agencies €19.50 an hour for a home carer to visit and tend to a patient in their home but the Carer only gets €12 per hour so that means that €7.50 or more than 50% of what the Carer gets goes directly to the agencies in some cases.
In the past the HSE departments used to deal with the distribution and the hire of staff. There is a huge portion of the budget going to the middle men and if the HSE took back control and cut out the agencies there would be a multi -million euro saving. This is not a factory floor- I don’t want to see the care of our sick and elderly becoming more about a commercial business- our end goal should be focused on the quality and quantity of that home care.
What I am suggesting does not mean that people employed by the agency presently would lose out- we still need Carers to provide the work but it may be more cost effective to do so through the HSE model,” said Deputy Murphy.
A better Home Care package
The Fianna Fail TD said that if Minister Harris was serious about trying to reduce HSE costs and reducing trolley waiting times in Emergency Departments throughout the country he needs to examine a better Home Care package for sick people being discharged from acute hospital beds and for our increasing elderly population.
“If the HSE took back control of the Home Care packages there would be more money to spend on actual care hours and this would help ensure that sick and older people could stay in their own homes as long as possible. Research has shown this is where older people and those with dementia do better. It is time to put in place a better system for Carers of those been cared for at home,ie be perhaps allowing them to work up to 24 hours a week and provide a Carers allowance that can be scaled according to the Carers income. There is simply not enough home care to allow faster discharge from hospitals and hours desperately need to be increased for those who need it.
I am currently working on a representation in County Roscommon where the family is struggling to keep their 86 year old mother at home. Although assessments have shown her to be at high risk she is still on a waiting list. This is absolutely outrageous and unjust- this 86 year old woman has been on a waiting list for three months now. If she had an increase in her home help it would be of great benefit- her family are struggling to fill the gaps and provide care around the clock- and the tragic thing is that this family is not alone- there are hundreds more forgotten families like them throughout the country,” concluded Deputy Murphy.