The number of people in the west of Ireland waiting for home care packages from the HSE has shown improvement, but it still far too large.
There were 1,205 people waiting for home care supports in the are covering Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon in October, the latest figures available, down from 1,525 last May.
According to information provided to Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall by the Health Service Executive.
That’s second only to the area covering Dublin North, North Central, and North West where there are 1,567 people on a waiting list for home care.
While Galway and the west may have seen improvement, the overall picture is somewhat grimmer as total waiting lists grew by more than 200 people to 6,324.
However many of the HSE’s Community Healthcare Organisations showed declining waiting lists, not just the west.
The increase was largely driven by CHO 9 (Dublin North, North Central, North West) which saw a colossal increase in the number of elderly people seeking support that drove up its waiting list by more than 600.
The shortest waiting lists in the country by a significant margin are in CHO 4 covering Cork/Kerry (166), and CHO 6 covering Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire, and Dublin South-East (212).
Deputy Shortall said that despite promises for increased funding for home care services, the situation was getting worse.
“When I first obtained these figures from the HSE more than six months ago I was appalled that over 6,100 vulnerable older people could be left waiting for such a basic service.”
“The Minister has repeatedly promised action on this issue, but the updated figures that I have received show that the situation has dis-improved,” she said.
Minister for Health Simon Harris announced last year that 550 additional home care packages would be funded as part of the HSE’s 2019 Winter Plan.
The latest update from the HSE on the Winter Plan in December said that €10.6 million had been allocated for additional packages.
Of those, 346 packages had been approved as of December 23, with a further 190 due to be allocated this month.
Deputy Shortall pointed out that it made no economic sense not to fund home care as it works out massively cheaper than having people in a nursing home or hospital bed.
According to her the average cost of home care works out at just €160 per person weekly, compared with €1,000 for a nursing home, or €6,000 for an acute hospital bed.
“Enabling older people to remain at home serves them best and is also a much more cost effective way for providing services,” she said.
“Many older people need only a minimum amount of day-to-day support that will allow them to live independently.”