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Staff shortage Elderly and vulnerable could be left without proper homecare support over Christmas


Young doctor giving helping hands for elderly woman

Young doctor giving helping hands for elderly woman

Young doctor giving helping hands for elderly woman

Fears have emerged that some elderly and vulnerable people on their own could be left without proper homecare support over Christmas due to a shortage of staff.

The concern was raised by Fine Gael TD Colm Burke at the Oireachtas Health Committee as HSE chiefs were quizzed on their winter plan.

He said he was already aware of some people who were left without homecare support at weekends.

Homecare is central to the HSE winter plan to keep as many people as possible from having to go to hospital.

In response, HSE chief operations officer Ann O’Donnell said there are difficulties in hiring enough homecare staff because they are reluctant to take on the work due to Covid-19.

The HSE directly employs homecare staff and also outsources to private companies, with some parts of the country worse hit than others.

The HSE saw a drop of 11,500 in the first months of the pandemic because some people opted out of the service due to infection risk, while others were considered low priority.

There are around 5,000 people now without a full service, she added.

The impact of Covid-19 means that around 2,000 health staff are unavailable for work on an average day, including 1,000 who are cocooning due to underlying illness.

HSE chief Paul Reid confirmed a number of hospitals are currently experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks.

It emerged there were multiple outbreaks of Covid-19 at University Hospital Limerick and at Ennis Hospital in Co Clare, leading to cancellations of “all routine outpatient appointments and the majority of elective procedures” today and tomorrow.

The hospitals’ chief executive Colette Cowan said the hospitals were trying to manage “a complex situation involving multiple outbreaks” of coronavirus.

It was “vital” that any patient requiring emergency care attend Limerick’s A&E, which remains open.

Significant numbers of staff are off work and self-isolating, having either tested positive for Covid-19 or been designated a close contact.

Clinical director Professor Brian Lenehan said: “The volume of staff currently self-isolating, having come into contact with Covid-19, is now such that we are curtailing scheduled care to concentrate resources on emergency presentations and on inpatients.”

Earlier it emerged that elective surgery and outpatient activity had been suspended at Naas General Hospital for two weeks due to a number of Covid-19 outbreaks.

The hospital asked the public to attend the emergency department only if “absolutely necessary” as it has been experiencing a high level of attendance in recent days.

The hospital is struggling with a number of Covid-19 outbreaks involving both patients and staff.

A spokesman said a number of measures to ensure the safety of patients and staff, in line with infection prevention control and public health advice, are in place.

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