Impact of staff embargo hitting patient care, inevitably those who need it most
Residents and locals protested this afternoon against the closure of Beech Ward in Cherry Orchard hospital.
In their wisdom the HSE have decided to close this 16 bed ward for July, August and September. They are closing it purely on the basis of ‘cost containment’ requirements, according to the HSE local health manager. This afternoon 300 locals and carers marched in protest against the ‘temporary’ closure of the ward.
The HSE told protesters this afternoon that the problem stems from the recruitment embargo. Currently the HSE has a strict recruitment/staff embargo as part of its cost containment (ie cuts) practices. And here is the manifestation of it. It makes more sense for the HSE to contract out care to the private sector rather than continue to provide quality public health care. This is a perfect example of the current government policy which undermines the public health system and further shifts care and investment into the private (mostly for profit) sector.
Seven of the beds in this unit are used for what is called ‘roll over respite care’. This means that older people come into this newly refurbished unit once every week or two weeks for two to three days. This provides the patients with a change a scene and quality care, while also providing carers with crucial time off from their full time 24/7 caring duties. At least 48 families will now not be able to avail of this service between now and the end of September.
The HSE will instead plan to provide the respite care to these older people in the private nursing homes in the locality. Locals are objecting to this on the basis of the disturbance it will cause their loved ones but also concerns over the distance from their homes and the level of care that will be provided in the private homes. Beech ward is a high dependency unit with some patients who use it entering the final stages of dementia.
Families who avail of the respite service speak very highly of it. Their relatives are used to going there, it is safe with a garden area to which patients have access. They like and appreciate this quality public health service. However the HSE insist it must close so as they come under budget. They say it is CHEAPER to buy care for these people in the private sector rather than keep the public unit open.
In Ireland, there are 160,000 carers providing 24/7 free care for the State. Just 1 in 4 of these get a carers allowance. It is estimated that carers provide €2.5 billion in care.