The Irish health system is relying on the “generosity” of people to look after their elderly relatives as the waiting list for home care remains at over 6,000.
While thousands of people go without beds in hospitals due to shortages, thousands of sick and elderly also go without care in their own home.
According to a Dáil debate in June, there were 6,400 people on the waiting list for home support care in Ireland at the end of March 2023.
Labour Spokesperson for Health Duncan Smith said there are delays and waiting lists across Ireland’s health service.
There are many people currently in nursing homes that could easily live at home if they had care supports, according to the TD.
“We know anecdotally that that's definitely the case,” he told The Pat Kenny Show. “We're hearing that from the nursing home providers themselves.
“It predominantly affects older people, but we have younger people with chronic health issues who just need a little bit of help at home as well.”
Many sick and elderly people rely on friends, neighbours and family members to look after them without home care, Deputy Smith said.
“The health service is relying on an awful lot of generosity and family love to do the job that can be done in a very cost-effective way,” he said.
Cost of home care
The Labour TD estimated it’s roughly 85% more expensive to put people in hospital beds than to provide them with home care.
“It’s massively cheaper to do it at home,” he said. “But we do have a problem in terms of recruitment to homecare workers.
“There is a sense amongst the workers that they're undervalued... they're underpaid, and there's no real progression in the industry.
“We want to bring home care assistance up to the level of health care systems in hospitals, so they're valued and feel that there's a career for them.”
Home care providers
Deputy Smith said 40% of home carers are employed by the HSE, while 60% are employed through private or voluntary organisations.
"With the recruitment freeze now in the HSE, there will be more pressure now,” he said.
The wages of private home care providers must be increased, Deputy Smith warned, if the waiting list is to reduce to let people get the care they need.
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