HSE pledges more home care to help free up hospital capacity for Covid-19

Home carer group says plan creates safer option for people most vulnerable to virus

The HSE has pledged to halve the waiting list for home care with 4,000 home care packages costing an estimated €50 million to help free up capacity in hospitals to deal with coronavirus.  Photograph: Getty Images

The HSE has pledged to halve the waiting list for home care with 4,000 home care packages costing an estimated €50 million to help free up capacity in hospitals to deal with coronavirus. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The HSE has pledged to halve the waiting list for home care with 4,000 home-care packages costing an estimated €50 million to help free up capacity in hospitals to deal with coronavirus.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid agreed this week to implement the health service’s revamped Home First policy as soon as possible in a move that will result in new and enhanced home-care packages starting in the coming months to cut the current waiting list of 8,000 in half.

The Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI), which represents home carers who look after 20,000 people across the country, said Mr Reid made the commitment in a meeting on Thursday.

Home care for older and medically vulnerable people is seen as a safer alternative to care in nursing homes and other residential care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic given the higher risk of contracting Covid-19 infection in congregated settings.

Second wave

Infections peaked at just 91 people out of the 20,000 being cared at home, according to HCCI. This compares with 7,455 cases across 468 clusters of infection in residential care facilities.

The HSE has said that hospital capacity has to be reduced to 80 per cent to give the country’s hospitals “surge capacity” to prepare for a possible second wave of the virus.

Joseph Musgrave, chief executive of HCCI, which represents groups with 10,000 carers, said he met Mr Reid to discuss the HSE’s plan for winter and the need to ensure the health service “can move people swiftly and safely from hospital right back to the comfort of their own home”.

“It is no secret that hospital capacities are going to be cut by 20 per cent and in order to move people safely into hospital, they need to leave hospital to recover. Rehabilitation has to happen outside the hospital system and we need to be able to provide it somewhere else,” he said.

There are currently about 55,000 home-care packages with the average person receiving 6½ hours of care a week. HCCI estimated that the cost of funding 4,000 additional packages would be €25 million over the coming months or €50 million over a full year.

There have been 1,107 deaths in residential care facilities during the pandemic, or 63 per cent of all deaths. Some 985 deaths occurred in nursing homes, accounting for 56 per cent of all fatalities.

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