THE HSE’s decision to push ahead and implement a controversial €8 million spending cut on home help hours has been sharply criticised.
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley said this ‘callous and cowardly decision’ represents a savage cut of about 450,000 home help hours on top of a 500,000 cut imposed earlier this year.
“It will ultimately cost the taxpayer more as many elderly and disabled people will be hospitalised who would otherwise be able to stay at home where it would be cheaper for the taxpayer and better for the patient.”
In the past year the number of HSE Home Helps in Laois/Offaly have been slashed by forty-eight, from 377 to 329.
Some of these positions have been replaced by agency staff employed by companies that provide home care for profit.
And while HSE Home Helps receive between €13.50 and €15 per hour, it is alleged it is costing up to €20 per hour for agency staff to carry out the same duties.
Deputy Stanley accused Fine Gael/Labour of making a u-turn on cuts for the disabled due to the massive public outcry.
“So much for Government claims that they will protect the most vulnerable and the disabled. Services for the disabled are already stretched to the limit with many who should have home help being left without it. These services are under severe strain in Laois/Offaly and can’t take any more reductions in resources.”
He explained, “HSE Home Helps receive between €13.50 and €15 per hour. Home Helps working for private agencies receive far less than this, an average of €9 - €10 per hour. Yet the rates been charged by the agencies to the HSE is much higher, possibly more than double this amount.”
Deputy Stanley believes the HSE should also move to reduce administration and management costs within the HSE.”
With an ageing population, Deputy Stanley contends that ‘the most cost effective’ way of providing care for the elderly is through the HSE Home Helps.
”The HSE Home Help service has for the last three decades been a huge success. These workers have provided an efficient and dedicated service to elderly in our communities and have saved the state millions by providing an alternative to expensive nursing home care.”