Deputy Danny Healy-Rae has been raising the increasingly worrying issue of home help provision to elderly people in Kerry and elsewhere in Dáil Éireann and he has called for statements on the matter from the minister responsible.
The following is Deputy Healy Rae’s contribution to the topic in the Dáil:
“Since being elected to this House, I and the other representatives from Kerry have highlighted our dissatisfaction with home help provision for elderly people in our county, which is unacceptable.
We raised the issue many times in the discussions on the programme for Government, on the Order of Business and at other times here, but nothing has changed in Kerry with regard to improving home help services.
This Government will be judged on its ability to make a difference to the people we represent. I believe that the people who need home help are not getting a sufficient number of hours.
Trying to Stay at Home
I know of many cases where the husband and the wife are trying to stay in their home but they are not getting a sufficient number of home help hours.
A half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening for five days is not sufficient in terms of helping people to get out of bed, give them a meal or whatever. Very little can be done in that short time. The home helps are wonderful people and they stay longer than they are paid to do.
I am aware of an elderly couple that is using the pension of one of them to provide a home help. That is not acceptable.
Very few people get a home help on a weekend. That is not acceptable. They do not get a home help on bank holidays.
I mentioned previously that home help was taken from people on Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day. That is a time of peace and goodwill when we are all supposed to look after each other, but especially elderly people.
That is the service our State is providing. It appears to me that there is no accountability in this area. The HSE is not accountable to the Minister for Health, but the buck should stop with the Minister. If we raise an issue in this House the Minister should address it and see how it can be approved.
If we do not help our elderly people to stay in their homes for as long as they possibly can, we are not doing our duty. Kerry has been badly let down with regard to the provision of a sufficient number of home help hours. I ask that this matter be addressed.
On another issue, Deer Lodge is a new facility that was built 12 months ago at great expense in St. Margaret’s Road, Killarney, to deal with people with mental health problems, but the door has not been opened yet. That brand new facility has been lying idle for 12 months.
Riddled with Suicides
I want the Minister to make a statement on when he will open the doors of that facility. Our county is riddled with suicides, and I am not saying that facility will stop suicides from happening in our county, but it is not acceptable that its doors are not yet open.
As an elected representative, I promised many people that we would do our level best to ensure the facility would be up and running.
The facility was completed in June of last year and was supposed to open in July of last year but the doors and gates are closed and it has not yet opened. I want the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, or the Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, to make a statement on when it will be opened. That is the question we are being asked day in, day out.
Another serious problem is manifesting itself regularly. Consider a person who has had a heart attack and goes to Cork University Hospital in the hope of having a triple or quadruple bypass.
No Bed Available
I have a constituent who was waiting for three weeks and who had to return home many times during those three weeks because when he went to the hospital, there was no bed available and the operation was cancelled.
Imagine the stress and trauma that family had to endure wondering if he would get another heart attack. The operation was cancelled several times. That was not fair on the family, the patient or the patient’s poor wife who could hardly sleep for those three weeks all because a bed was not available to cater for that patient following the operation.
Those matters need to be addressed.
Members elected to this Chamber highlight these concerns but nothing is happening. The Minister needs to make a statement on what he will do about these serious matters. I am not alone in raising these issues but I ask that they be addressed and that the Minister makes a statement on them.”
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