Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Respite Care Services Provision
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Daly, for coming to the Chamber to listen to me. I hope he might have some good news for me. There are 55,000 people in Ireland living with dementia. It might be hard to believe but 5,500 of those reside in the counties of Roscommon, Mayo and Galway. That is 10% of the overall figure. It is an extraordinarily high figure, I am sure the Minister of State would agree. The figure for Roscommon alone is 2,000 in a population of 65,000. I do not have the figures for east Galway but they are fairly large too. There is no budget for Alzheimer's sufferers in County Roscommon. I am looking for a commitment that the HSE, and the Government will assist us in this because I am sure the Minister of State would accept that it is of utmost importance. Dementia sufferers enter expensive long-term care when they could continue to live in their community, and we all want that, where possible, with proper supports in place such as day care and home support. There is a unit that could be used at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon. The management of the hospital has said it could allow the unit to be used. The fact that we are not in receipt of funds to provide care for Alzheimer's sufferers means that we cannot use that premises. The Western Alzheimers foundation is committed to staffing the service once the funds are allocated. The estimated cost of putting two days' care into the unit at the Sacred Heart Hospital is €40,000 per annum. That is not a big figure. We have co-operation all round. There is the Roscommon-Mayo Alzheimer's group, the management of the Sacred Heart Hospital, and I am sure the HSE would make a goodwill gesture towards this if it can. Will the Minister of State facilitate us and assist the people of County Roscommon, an extraordinarily high number of whom suffer from Alzheimer's?
The strategy was put in place in 2014 for dementia and dementia care. We are five years on from that and it is very hard to accept that there is one county that has no funding for Alzheimer's care. I hope that in his response the Minister of State will tell us that he is able to come on board to assist us and leave us in such a position that we will be able to use that unit at the Sacred Heart Hospital. If that was available for a day care service two days a week, it would be of great benefit and help to the many families throughout the county who have to deal with members of their families who suffer from Alzheimer's. It is a genuine case and cause. In fairness to the Minister of State, when he addresses these issues he does try to assist. I think he will agree that the allocation of money is quite small, at €40,000 per annum, but it would make a massive difference. It would send a clear signal to the people of Roscommon that the Government and the HSE are united behind them and trying to assist them in dealing with this big challenge.
I thank Deputy Eugene Murphy for raising this issue. Many people with dementia are able to live long, fulfilling lives after their diagnosis, and fostering compassionate and inclusive communities can greatly improve the quality of life for persons with dementia and their families. It is Government policy that people should live and receive care in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.
To support future development of services and supports for people with dementia, the National Dementia Office and the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland undertook a joint project in 2016 and 2017 to map dementia-specific community-based services throughout the country. Information from the project is included in an online service finder on the Understand Together website so that people can find out what services are available in each county. In County Roscommon, the HSE provides a psychiatrist of later life, a memory clinic for diagnosis and clinical care, and a memory technology resource room which offers opportunities to learn about and be assessed for assistive technologies, while funding has also been allocated to the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland and Western Alzheimers for a community dementia support nurse and a dementia carers support group.
While there are gaps in access to services and a variation in what services are provided, efforts are ongoing to address this. The National Dementia Office has met senior HSE officials in each community healthcare organisation, CHO, area to highlight service gaps in each area and to provide guidance and support on dementia service planning and development throughout the country. A dementia needs framework has been developed to support existing services. On a national level, as part of the national dementia strategy implementation programme, a range of supports have been introduced to assist people with dementia and their families and carers. Dementia-specific intensive home care packages offer tailored home care to people with dementia with complex needs.
The primary care education, pathways and research project is training general practitioners, GPs, and primary care teams, giving them the skills to diagnose and manage dementia. In excess of €6.26 million has been secured from the Dormant Accounts Fund to offer a range of additional supports. These include diagnostic and post-diagnostic supports, a national dementia training programme for HSE home care staff, and a nationwide network of memory technology resource rooms. A carers' needs assessment will be rolled out in community healthcare west during 2019 and 2020.
In response to Deputy Murphy's specific query, community healthcare west recently met the voluntary provider seeking to provide this additional respite in Roscommon town to discuss the proposal of part of the annual service level agreement, SLA, process. All applications for section 39 grant aid funding will be considered and prioritised based on their application in accordance with the agreed community healthcare west criteria. This prioritisation will determine the allocation of available funding. Community healthcare west has advised that the SLA process is ongoing and will conclude by the end of the month.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply which contains much information. There is limited care afforded to Roscommon people, and this funding is coming from the funding allocated to Mayo, which I think is €90,000 per annum. The Minister of State can correct me if I am wrong. The bit of funding for Roscommon comes out of that. There is a one-day centre in Four Mile House, four or five miles outside Roscommon town. I acknowledge the work done there.
There is now a standing voluntary committee in the area that is committed to setting up a centre. In the interim, this €40,000 is being requested to provide two days' respite, perhaps over weekends, at the day-care centre at Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon town. That centre is available and its management is willing to co-operate and assist in the running of this respite service. I acknowledge, as was mentioned in the Minister of State's reply, that negotiations are going on. We hope they will come to a conclusion and will not go on indefinitely. The most important thing for now is to secure that €40,000 per annum. This would be highly significant and a really good gesture to the people in the county. The Minister of State will know, from meeting groups and perhaps from family experience, that it is a massive challenge for people to have a family member suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Many such people can be looked after but the day-care centres are extremely important. Respite is also a comfort and gives families some time and a break from constantly looking after a family member who has Alzheimer's disease 24-7. I hope the Minister of State will be able to use his good offices to see that we get that €40,000 in order to get these two days' respite going, particularly at the weekend, and to help those families.
I confirm again to the Deputy that, as I have outlined and as he has acknowledged, discussions are taking place in respect of the annual service level agreement. These will conclude by the end of the month. I certainly will be happy to pass on the Deputy's representations to the HSE on that front but as the Deputy will appreciate, I cannot prejudge the outcome of the discussion. I know the Deputy is not looking for that but rather is simply requesting my support for the application. He will be updated on the outcome of those negotiations at the end of the month.