Woman in hospital for six months due to lack of homecare package

Taoiseach says provision of 24/7 homecare with ventilator difficult even with funding

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald highlighted the case of Olivia Harte, a mother of two. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald highlighted the case of Olivia Harte, a mother of two. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A 41-year-old woman remains in intensive care in hospital six months after she was cleared to be discharged, because of a lack of an intensive home care package, the Dáil was told.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald highlighted the case of Olivia Harte, a mother of two children aged six and seven, who suffers from an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease.

From Co Leitrim, she is currently in the intensive care unit of Cavan General Hospital. “Olivia is on a ventilator most of the time and on oxygen to allow her to eat yoghurt or drink smoothies for short periods of time,” Ms McDonald said.

She is fully cognitive and can walk a short distance with assistance but is physically very weak. “This is Olivia’s reality and it is lived out in the clinical surroundings of a medical facility while her two small children play at her bedside.”

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said Ms Harte spent her 10th wedding anniversary, her last birthday and the birthdays of her two children in hospital but she “wants to go home”.

Barrier

Ms McDonald said “the single barrier between her and home and her family is the HSE and their failure to fund the requisite care”.

She called on the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ensure that the HSE release the funds necessary to allow Ms Harte to go home and pointed out that the Government was now spending €11 million less on homecare than it had in 2008.

Mr Varadkar said it would be inappropriate to discuss patient information in the Dáil but he knew as a doctor the difficulties involved in trying to provide 24/7 care at home with ventilation. “It not as straightforward as a normal homecare package,” he said.

“Providing 24/7 care in the home with ventilation at the level of care that’s provided in ICU is very difficult and can be very challenging to provide even if the funding is available.”

The Taoiseach will discuss the case with the Minister for Health and ask that full consideration be given to it.

Individual case

But he said “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do to direct that the HSE do anything in any individual case. That’s not how decisions should be made.”

But he said the budget for homecare was €367 million, providing 10.5 million hours of homehelp and 16,750 homecare packages, up from 15,000.

Mr Varadkar added that the numbers in hospital awaiting homecare packages was down from a peak of 830 in 2014 to 537 patients currently. There was still a long way to go, he said, but progress had been made.