Groups shocked by scale of HSE cutbacks
CUTS announced by the Health Service Executive yesterday will result in earlier admissions to nursing homes and longer stays in acute hospitals, it has been claimed.
The director of Older Bolder, Patricia Conboy, said the cuts to homecare services were truly shocking and tantamount to turning off the life-support machine on services which were already thinly spread.
“The cuts fly in the face of long-standing policy and clear commitments in the programme for government to develop and invest in home and community care services,” she said.
“The consequences will be earlier admissions to nursing homes, longer stays in acute hospitals and anguish for families who need support to care at home for relatives suffering illness, frailty or disability,” she added.
Age Action, which also supports older people, said the cuts will inevitably mean many people desperately in need of care will either be unable to access services or will have their already overstretched services reduced even further.
The €130 million cost-cutting package announced by the HSE has been drawn up in an attempt to eliminate its €259 million deficit. Unless arrested, the deficit is projected to reach €500 million by the end of the year.
Cuts affecting older people and the disabled feature strongly in the package.
Some 600,000 home help hours are being cut, the second time this service has been cut this year, while €10 million will be saved through a reduction in personal assistant hours for the disabled. Another €1.7 million will be saved by reducing 200 monthly homecare packages.
Inclusion Ireland strongly criticised the €10million cut to personal assistant hours. It said personal assistants were a critical component in enabling people with disabilities to live independent lives in their own homes.
“This cut represents a direct attack on this Government’s, and Minister for Disabilities Kathleen Lynch’s rhetoric of ‘a more inclusive society for people with disabilities’ with ‘person-centred’ supports,” it said in a statement.
“Cuts in the area of home help and personal assistants will further push people with disabilities back into their own homes and away from their communities. These cuts will directly impact on the quality of life of many people with a disability,” it added.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher queried why the Health Minister James Reilly was nowhere to be seen as €130 million of extra cuts were confirmed for the health services.
He said the HSE’s announcement would cause alarm to patients and their families throughout the country.
Across the HSE, agency staff will be cut by half and overtime by 10 per cent in an effort to eliminate the deficit.
Some €6 million will be saved by ending the provision of medical products used by up to 50,000 patients. These include the nutritional supplement glucosamine, an anti-obesity drug Orlistat and Omega-3-Triglycerides, which help manage cholesterol. The HSE says the benefit to patients from these drugs is not established.
The HSE says the Government and the troika have set clearly defined budget targets and it has a statutory obligation to remain within its €13.2 billion budget.
As part of the cost-saving drive, it plans to save €37 million by running stocks as low as possible for the rest of the year, and €26.5 million by spending less on medical equipment, furniture, education, training, travel and advertising.