Hands Off!

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As I left the nursing home yesterday evening having visited my parents, I spotted a notice in the front hall which left me seething with rage. It seems the HSE has identified another niche market to get it’s grubby hands on, and care for the elderly is about to suffer the same fate as the public health service.

In Ireland, there is a huge shortage of long term care beds and this has placed great strain on support services. Our acute hospitals our filled with elderly patients who are well enough to be discharged but who are unable to live at home without a support structure in place. The government pledged to address this problem by funding better homecare packages and providing extra long stay public beds in the nursing homes. However with the HSE cutbacks, homecare packages were the first to go. The public health nurses are doing a brilliant job but they are severely limited through lack of funding, in the services they can provide to assist old people to remain in their own homes. With Ireland’s ageing demographics, there has been a sequential increase in the number of dementia sufferers and this is placing an increased burden on support structures. As a result, more and more families have to resort to seeking nursing home care for their loved ones in order that they can end their days in comfort and safety.

Now it seems that this safety net is about to be pulled from under their feet. The notice that caught my attention yesterday was in effect, an apology from the management of the nursing home to the staff, residents and their relatives for cutbacks which are due to be implemented shortly by the HSE. Instead of increasing funds to provide for much needed improvements at the nursing home, the HSE now plans to deplete services and I’ve no doubt that this action will be replicated at nursing homes across the country. All development plans have been put on-hold and an embargo has been placed on staff recruitment/replacement and on the renewal of equipment and supplies. One large ward is due to be closed down completely resulting in the loss of a significant number of long stay beds. While these nightingale-style wards are a disgrace as they reflect a bygone institutional age rather than a care setting which is home from home, they should not be closed down without first being replaced by newly designed rooms. This action is very similar to the HSE’s recent closure of various acute care services around the country before any of the promised centres of excellence have been developed. It makes no sense but then what else have we come to expect from the HSE?

So instead of planning and implementing the necessary changes needed to provide for proper and effective care for our older people, this government has opted to target care services for the most vulnerable in our society in order to save their own skins. I’ve no doubt that Mary Harney wants to privatise nursing home care in an effort to wash her hands of responsibility. Our healthcare system is already in total crisis and this imminent depletion of public nursing homes, will only further escalate the problems. It’s a ticking time bomb.

7 Responses to Hands Off!

  1. Grannymar says:

    Hopefully with Bertie going, The improvements can start.

  2. Steph says:

    Bertie going? I’ve been out for the last few hours – have I missed something?

  3. Baino says:

    Aged care is something we provide financial advice on at work. It doesn’t matter what your means, you WILL get good quality aged care in Australia. Of course if you can afford it, good nursing homes will charge through the nose but if you can’t, you will only ever be charged 85% of your Centrelink (social security benefit) for quality accommodation. Given that we are only 20 million strong and also facing an ageing population this may change in the future but I’m pretty confident that no matter your means, you will be able to acuire good care. Even the private nursing homes are obliged to have a prescribed number of public beds.

    Psychiatric care on the other hand is a mess with suicidal teens being placed in Aged Care facilities because there is no interim recovery place between hospital and home.

    I was as surprised as you re Bertie’s resignation (Nothing on the news about it here of course!)

  4. Steph says:

    Thanks folks. Yep – Bertie ALL GONE! Well he will be by May 6th!

    We need to get rid of more than Bertie though before improvements will be seen in the health service.

    Baino – my parent’s nursing home is an unusual set-up. It was originally a private residence which was turned into a hospital for returned WW1 veterans, and was funded by the British war pension office. It was later donated to the State as a public nursing home but the British still partly fund it as a home for WW2 veterans. As my father served in the Royal Navy during/following WW2 and has a small war pension, he and my mother were lucky enough to be allocated places in the home. In return, the HSE deducts the majority of their state pensions and subsidizes the rest of the cost. Every year, the British Ambassador holds a party for all the war veterans and next week the Chelsea Pensioners in their distinctive red and black uniforms, are due to pay a visit. It’s a fantastic place (set in beautiful grounds) with a great spirit – more like a little community hospital (many facilities in situ) than a nursing home – and it’s provided a great service to Irish pensioners for over 100 years.

    I find it sad that the Irish government can’t/won’t keep their side of the bargain and seem determined to deplete the fine service it offers.

  5. Ian says:

    Steph,

    Your parents’ care facility is a bright exception in a very depressing landscape (It even publishes its own newsletter from time to time).

    I don’t think it would fit in with the PD ideology of the private sector operating everything on a profit basis.

  6. Steph says:

    You’re on the ball, Ian

    There is a very active group of volunteers at the nursing home who help out with the newsletter production, social functions, musical events, coffee shop, library, and fund-raising activities etc. etc. My father was a volunteer himself for many years before his decline. Most of the accommodation facilities are now very outdated and in need of complete re-structuring and while the conditions are far from ideal, the care and compassion is second to none. Everyone is so friendly, it’s like my second home at this stage 😀

  7. […] that’s it! My grumble of last week has already become a reality. The HSE cutbacks are in full swing. One large ward at the public […]

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