The latest figures showing an increase in the number of patients on trolleys can’t be a surprise to anyone. In addition, Minister Simon Harris announcement of a further €5M for home care while welcome, is merely a PR exercise to show he is doing something.
The Minister is right to target home care as having a role to play in this crisis. Home care has a double effect in reducing pressures on our acute sector by firstly reducing admissions to hospitals and then secondly by speeding up discharges from hospitals.
However, while the acute sector is trying to cope with rising numbers on trolleys the home care sector has its own capacity crisis, with rising waiting lists for home care packages. So while the €5M extra investment in home care packages on the outside seems positive and shows the Minister trying to do something, the reality is that the home care sector can’t even cope with existing demand let alone an additional €5M in funding.
The reason for this is simple, agencies are finding it impossible to recruit and retain carers because of the poor wages they pay, zero hour type contracts and the precious little career pathways available.
Unless we start to make caring a more attractive career and become more innovative on how home care is delivered, home care will never be able to play its full role in the health care continuum and help reduce the pressures the acute sector is presently facing.