The lack of respite care since the pandemic shows “no thought for us as carers”, a man in Castlebar has said.
Kevin Guthrie’s wife had a haemorrhage and a stroke in 2013 and he has been a full-time carer to her ever since.
Before COVID-19, she was able to receive respite care for around two weeks a year in their local Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar.
However, despite the end of restrictions, respite care provision at the hospital has not returned to pre-pandemic norms.
“We had two respite beds in the Sacred Heart Hospital where my wife had been going for the previous eight years,” Mr Guthrie told Lunchtime Live.
“When the pandemic struck, two respite beds were closed down; the HSE is telling us the pandemic is over - but the respite beds are not open.”
Mr Guthrie has contacted local politicians, brought it up at an HSE forum and has even been in touch with the Minister - all to no avail.
“I haven’t had respite now coming up on three and a half years,” he said.
Previously, Mr Guthrie took a week off in June and another in September; sometimes all he did was paint a room in the house but he greatly appreciated the time off.
“It gives us a break from each other and it tends to recharge the batteries,” he said.
“Because, as you said in the outset there, it is a tough job.
“Leo [Varadkar] talks about… the people that get up early in the morning.
“Some of us people don’t even get to bed some nights to get up early in the morning. We’re up.
“It’s a tough job; there’s great pleasure in looking after somebody you care about but by God, you have to look after yourself otherwise it all goes down the swanny.”
Nursing homes in other parts of the county have offered to look after Mrs Guthrie but Mr Guthrie wants her to go to the Sacred Heart where she feels “comfortable” and he knows she is well looked after.
“What the HSE is going to do is they’re going to put me into bad health,” he said.
“And then they’ll have to do something for my wife.
“It doesn’t make sense what they’re at and it definitely doesn’t make sense that the two beds in the Sacred Heart Hospital, 10 minutes from where I live, aren’t open.”
In a statement to Newstalk, the HSE said:
"HSE Community Healthcare West can confirm that a respite service is currently not available in the Sacred Heart Hospital Castlebar due to the reduction in the numbers of Rehabilitation beds.
"It is envisaged as we increase bed numbers and recruit staff within this Unit, that the respite service will recommence by quarter 4 of this year.
"Of note, respite services are being provided by referral in Ballina District Hospital, Swinford District Hospital, Belmullet Community Hospital and St. Fionnan’s Community Nursing Unit, Achill should Ms. Guthrie’s family wish to avail of the service.
"This was advised to Minister Butler’s office in February 2023 following representations on Ms. Guthrie’s behalf."
Main image: A care worker helps a woman. Picture by: Alamy.com