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450,000 home help hours could go as HSE plans €8 million cut

The changes would equate to about 450,000 hours being lost – but the HSE says direct patient care services will stay.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE HEALTH SERVICE EXECUTIVE has said it proposed to cut about €8 million of spending on home help hours between now and the end of the year – a cut equivalent to about 450,000 hours of service in the next three months.

The HSE has told TDs that it intends to make the cuts between now and December, having originally announced cuts of €10.8 million as part of the HSE’s quest to balance its books before the end of the year.

“It is the HSE’s intention that the impact of these reductions will be minimised by ensuring that services are provided, in the first instance, for direct patient care,” the HSE said in response to parliamentary questions from Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Billy Kelleher.

“Decisions in relation to the provision of home help hours will continue to be based on a review of individual needs, and no current recipient of this service and who has an assessed need for the service, will be without a service.”

The HSE said it provided about 11 million hours of home help services with an annual budget of €195 million – equating to 2.75 million hours every three months at a cost of €48.75 million. On that basis, if applied proportionally, an €8 million cut would mean about 450,000 hours lost.

Kelleher said the cuts would have to be implemented in a “chaotic and ham-fisted way” simply because James Reilly had not be able to implement the cuts to the health budget that he had promised.

“This is on top of 500,000 home-help hours being cut earlier in the year,” Kelleher said.

“It betrays the meaningless of Minister Reilly’s promise of minimising the impact of these cuts on the most vulnerable.”

SIPTU also criticised the decision as “morally unacceptable and illogical”.

Health division organiser Paul Bell said the cuts would “not only reduce the provision of care to the most vulnerable in our society, but will also result in more people having to avail of full-time care in a hospital setting”.

“These outcomes go directly against the stated aim of the Government to develop community based health services and reduce spending,” he said.

The HSE’s response to Kelleher indicated that the service had “a statutory responsibility to live within the Budget voted to it by the Oireachtas”.

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Gavan Reilly

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