Pay increase for homecare workers part of Budget 2022 deliberations, Minister says

Hospital release delays because of shortage of carers as Government develops scheme

‘I am incredulous that when people contact the HSE, the service provider will say it can give them 21 hours but it does not have anyone to deliver the care.’ Photograph: iStock

‘I am incredulous that when people contact the HSE, the service provider will say it can give them 21 hours but it does not have anyone to deliver the care.’ Photograph: iStock

 

Pay increases for homecare workers will be part of Budget 2022 deliberations, according to Minister of State for Health Frank Feighan, who said the sector “probably needs a lot more pay”.

Mr Feighan acknowledged the difficulty in attracting people to work in the provision of homecare and said: “I agree that they probably need more reimbursement.”

The Minister’s comments came amid a growing crisis in the recruitment of carers and as final preparations are made for the budget next month.

The Government and Health Service Executive (HSE) have faced trenchant criticism over the provision of homecare supports, where funding is available to provide support hours to keep people in their own homes, but there are increasing difficulties in recruiting carers.

Independent Wexford TD Verona Murphy has highlighted a number of homecare support packages pledged but not provided. “The hours are there but the staff are not.”

Ms Murphy said: “I am incredulous that when people contact the HSE, the service provider will say it can give them 21 hours but it does not have anyone to deliver the care.”

In one instance she said homecare provision for a 73-year-old paraplegic man was delayed because of a dispute within the Department of Health over whether he was an older person or a disability case.

Ms Murphy said it was “outrageous” that it took a week for that to be resolved. The farmer, who became paraplegic following an accident, can still not return home from hospital “for the want of two carers coming in for 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the evening”.

The co-ordinator had told the family there could be “one carer for 45 minutes once a day, five days a week, not seven, and they will be left to their own devices for the other two days even though his wife is also 73 years of age”.

In another case a woman in hospital with a terminal diagnosis no longer receptive to treatment “is being denied returning to her own home as approved care hours cannot be delivered due to staff shortages” and this was “incredibly upsetting and traumatic” for the woman and her family.

‘Unprecedented challenges’

When the Wexford TD raised the issue in the Dáil, the Minister said the Covid-19 pandemic had led to unprecedented challenges and “nowhere more than in older persons’ services”.

He said “the sector probably needs a lot more pay. Such increases will be part of the Minister’s deliberations on the budget. It is very difficult to attract people into the sector and I agree that they probably need more reimbursement.”

He added, however, that data showed that at the end of July more than 11.4 million home support hours were provided to 53,732 people, 1.5 million hours more than the same period in 2020.

Mr Feighan said that of the 468 patients delayed in their transfer from hospital, 93 were waiting for home support of whom 57 were approved for funding and “waiting for carer availability”.

The Government is establishing a statutory scheme for the financing and regulation of home support, and a pilot project to test a “reformed model of service” will be in place for six months in towns in Dublin, Cork, Galway and parts of Westmeath.