Thursday, 11 July 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
I also want to recognise the sad passing of two well-known and much loved personalities. I got to know Noel Whelan well during the marriage equality referendum but I had known him before then as well. He was somebody who had the courage to put his name forward for politics. He had a close connection with the Fianna Fáil Party but that did not determine his commentary and his influence in many social change campaigns and he was somebody who was deeply respected and liked across the political divide. He was also someone who was trusted in seeking his counsel and advice. Dying at the age of 50 is a tragedy for his family. For his wife Sinéad, his son Séamus and other family and people who were close to him, I want to say we are thinking of them today and we recognise the extraordinary contribution he has made to public life in Ireland as a senior counsel, as someone who was interested and involved in politics and as an accurate and respected commentator for many years.
Brendan Grace was also a giant. There are few Members of this House who have not heard, seen or been at a venue when he has been entertaining, singing and making people laugh and where his acting and talent have been a source of extraordinary entertainment for many decades. A lot of people were deeply saddened to hear of his passing this morning. It is important to recognise what were two giants, certainly for my generation as we grew up, in both political discourse and in broader entertainment. They have passed far too early in life and Ireland is a lesser place for that.
On the issues the Deputy raised with home care packages and home help, in truth I will not be able to give him the detail he is looking for today. That is something on which both the HSE and the Minister for Health must provide information and answers. I will, however, give the Deputy some basic information to respond to his questions.
As outlined in its national service plan for 2019, the HSE maximises the utilisation of current resources, prioritising those requiring discharge from acute hospitals. The management of the service and the budget is delivered to improve responses for older people at the most demanding times of the year, particularly in the winter.
In the winter of 2018-19 the immediate focus was on reducing delayed patient discharge through mobilising the additional resources made available and ensuring that social care measures were effectively deployed to enable older people to move to a more appropriate care setting, including step-down or transitional care, or their own home with the supports needed.
Preliminary data for May indicate that almost 7.52 million hours have been provided this year, about 2% below the target, with 6,819 people waiting for a new or additional service. Under the 2019 service plan, 10,980 transitional care funding approvals, approximately 210 per week, have been sanctioned to support patients discharged from acute hospitals to move to private nursing home beds during the year so far. A budget of €28.5 million has been assigned to the services for 2019.
We are aware of the severe pressures on the supports needed to allow discharge from hospital. There are broader challenges with a significant increase in demand for home care packages given the ageing population and the increasing number of people who want support to live as independently as they can at home. We are responding to that by increasing budgets, hours and available resources, but work clearly remains to be done in the area.