AN advocate for the elderly has described the current waiting list for home support in Cork as unacceptable, calling on the HSE to take action to address the backlog.
According to Cork Kerry Community Healthcare there are 1,474 people waiting for home support services in the two counties.
Paddy O’Brien, who has been an advocate for the elderly in Cork for decades, said action must be taken to combat this waiting list.
“Something must be done ultimately regarding the exceptionally long waiting list for home carers/ home helps. Elderly people in need of this very essential care at home are waiting many months.
“Too many elderly people are doing their utmost to care for themselves which they find very difficult.”
“A lack of adequate home carers is creating serious problems for the HSE and those in need of this specific care in their homes,” he told The Echo.
Mr O’Brien said in his experience the vast majority of elderly people would like to continue living in their own homes but that delays in accessing the HSE Home Support Service is taking away this wish.
The HSE Home Support Service, formerly called the Home Help Service or Home Care Package Scheme, aims to support older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and to support informal carers.
Home support is offered mainly to over-65s with exceptions sometimes made for those younger than 65.
“Going back many years ago, if I received a phone call regarding procuring of a home help for an elderly person, that person would have a home help in less than 24 hours,” Mr O’Brien recalled.
“Now people are waiting months and months and months with no light at the end of the tunnel for them.
“The question must be asked, what has happened that an elderly person requiring support in their own home must go on a waiting list for months and months?
Mr O’Brien said he believes waiting lists are the result of recruitment and retention issues that are pay-related.
In a statement to The Echo, CKCH acknowledged that it is facing recruitment difficulties.
“The most recent figures (end of January 2023) show that 9,000 people across Cork and Kerry are receiving a Home Support service every month and more than 2.7 million Home Support hours were provided across Cork and Kerry in 2022.
“Despite providing this very high level of service, we have difficulties in meeting the need and demand for Home Support because we face a very challenging situation in terms of recruiting staff.
“This is despite our best efforts to recruit staff to these valued and rewarding roles,” the statement said.
It added that the shortage of staff is the “sole reason” for waiting lists at this point in time.
“We regret any delay in providing Home Support and are doing everything possible to recruit additional staff,” CKCH said.
The statement said the salary for a Health Care Support Assistant (HCSA), based on a standard 39-hour working week, is €31,723 to €40,738 which was described as “competitive and attractive”.
CKCH said that a recruitment campaign for HCSAs is currently underway and will run until noon on April 12.
Those interested in applying can go to hse.ie/jobs and search for 0323.
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