The lack of additional home care support to be provided by the HSE this year will put hospitals under increasing pressure, the head of Nursing Homes Ireland has warned.
NHI CEO Tadhg Daly was commenting after the Irish Examiner revealed the HSE home support service has been largely closed to new applicants until November.
There were 6,285 people waiting for funding for new or additional home support services last August, according to the HSE’s response to a parliamentary question.
The service is seen as vital to ensuring that elderly people can remain in their homes.
“We know we have an aging population and if we don’t provide the services for them, it’s going to impact heavily on the acute hospital system which is already challenged,” said Mr Daly.
“In fact, challenged might be an understatement.”
In a statement to The Examiner, the HSE said: “Between now and early November, we will have to restrict the number of new or additional hours allocated.”
The revelations, just weeks after the HSE admitted it was monitoring spending on the Fair Deal scheme, which offers financial support for people who require long-term residential care.
Mr Daly said the latest closure will “exacerbate an already difficult situation”.
“We’ve recently seen a slow down in the approval rates in the Fair Deal scheme where the budget is at its limit.
“So extra funding there, in tandem with extra funding for home support, is badly needed,” he added.
Mr Daly warned that situations similar to the one witnessed in CUH in April, when a Status Black was issued and the hospital was full to capacity, could become the norm unless community and home care is invested in.
“That’s the big fear for everybody, not just for older people, but anyone that has to attend hospital or work in the sector.
“We’re coming into the summer months now where it might not be as busy.
“But certainly, I would fear that coming into the autumn and winter, if we don’t invest in both residential nursing home and home care, it will be even more challenging for hospitals,” he added.
“That has a huge impact on older people themselves, sitting on a trolley in a busy A&E is not the appropriate place for them to be at all.
“The issue is that there are people in hospitals who could be discharged if nursing home or home support was available, and this would in turn free up hospital beds for other people that need them.
“The lack of investment is a disaster for everyone.”