Medically vulnerable people in Cork ‘living like it’s 1922’ due to fear of high electricity bills

Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould has heard from constituents suffering from serious health issues who are availing of medical devices such as home oxygen therapy during a period of surging electricity costs.
Medically vulnerable people in Cork ‘living like it’s 1922’ due to fear of high electricity bills

ESB currently has a vulnerable customer register based on information from electricity suppliers.

A NUMBER of Cork people are foregoing the use of vital medical equipment in a dangerous attempt to reduce energy bills.

Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould has heard from constituents suffering from serious health issues who are availing of medical devices such as home oxygen therapy during a period of surging electricity costs. One man confessed to turning off his sleep apnea machine after finding himself in arrears.

Billy Sheehan from Mayfield said the €600 credit for domestic electricity customers announced as part of Budget 2023 is welcome. Nonetheless, he stressed that people such as him will soon be back to “square one” as they struggle to meet costs.

The Cork man suffers from a range of health complaints including diabetes and issues with his heart. He avails of various medications but can no longer benefit from his sleep apnea machine which alleviates the distressing interruptions to his breathing that are commonplace throughout the night.

“I can’t afford to use it because my bill is too high,” he told The Echo.

“It depresses me. Plugging in the sleep apnea machine would be the equivalent of leaving a kettle to boil all night, which nobody can afford to do anymore.”

The lack of sleep often leaves Billy exhausted.

“I fall asleep worrying about what’s going to happen if I stop breathing in the middle of the night. Anyone who has the machine realises the danger of not using it. This is really serious. It’s not so much that you are afraid of falling asleep. What you’re really afraid of is not waking up. I’m tired every day now. I find I’m falling asleep more in the chair than I am in the bed.” Billy admits he is now behind on his electricity bill.

“It’s distressing. You just don’t know what to do. The bills should have to be capped for people like me who are using electricity for medical reasons.” He spoke of how the situation has affected his quality of life.

“When the night-time comes, I open the curtains to leave in the street light, rather than turn on a light switch. People are living like it’s 1922 as opposed to 2022 and that’s not right.” 

ESB currently has a vulnerable customer register based on information from electricity suppliers. The measures ensure this cohort are looked after in the event of a power outage.

Mr Gould emphasised that this is not enough to dispel the worries of medically vulnerable groups.

He said that another woman phoned him concerned about whether she would be able to continue running her oxygen therapy device.

“People like Billy are concerned about these machines running through the night,” Deputy Gould said. “My worry is that people are not using their medical devices because they are worried about the cost of electricity. Taking risks like this for your health is just too dangerous. I’d advise anyone in this situation to contact their energy provider immediately to let them know they are medically vulnerable. Anyone who needs help can also contact my office.” 

The 2022 global energy crisis came about as a result of supply shortages primarily due to cyclic pressures. Contributory factors included slow supply recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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