Seanad debates

Wednesday, 17 December 2003

Adjournment Matters. - Health Board Services.


Mr. Feighan: I welcome the Minister of State. Over a year ago, the Plunkett Home in Boyle did without physiotherapy services for inpatients and outpatients for nine months and for the past two months there have been no physiotherapy services for in-patients and out-patients in north and west Roscommon. No stroke cases are being helped and no physiotherapy is provided to keep patients mobile. None of the patients in these centres is getting any activity. This is a far cry from the model provided in the Health and Wellbeing for Older People 2001 – 2006 strategy launched by the Western Health Board.

I ask the Minister for Health and Children to clarify the reason Áras Mháthair Pól, Castlerea, Áras Chaolainn, Castlerea, and the Plunkett Home, Boyle, with more than 130 in-patients and out-patients are without physiotherapy services. We ask him to reinstate these services immediately.

Mr. T. O'Malley: I thank Senator Feighan for raising this matter on the Adjournment.

Recent years have seen dramatic changes in both the concept and practice of services for older people, and enormous strides have been and continue to be made in developing a comprehensive, community-based service that is integrated with other health services. The shift in the delivery of services from predominantly hospital-based care has been extremely successful and, undoubtedly, the quality of care for older people has been enhanced by this development.

While we all realise that the economic situation facing us is not as vibrant as we have been used to over the past number of years, I assure Senators that the issues surrounding older people and their welfare have not been ignored by this Government. Without wishing to bore Senators with figures, I would like to provide a brief summary of how some of the additional money for services for older people was spent this year.

In 2003, a total of €23.6 million in additional revenue funding was allocated to services for older people. This funding is being used for a variety of services, including a home help service, a nursing home subvention scheme, support to carers, commencement of an elder abuse programme, support to voluntary organisations, the opening of new community nursing units, provision of aids and appliances, development of dementia services, funding of day care centres and development of consultant-led services.

Since 1997, a total of €270 million in additional funding has been put into services for older people. As with all other sectors of society, the injection of Government money is not an absolute solution to all the issues. There will always be a need for extra resources, facilities, staff, etc.

Physiotherapy is a health care profession concerned with human function and movement and maximising potential. It uses physical approaches to promote, maintain and restore physical, psychological and social well-being, taking account of variations in health status. It is science-based, committed to extending, applying, evaluating and reviewing evidence that underpins and informs its practice and delivery. The exercise of clinical judgment and informed interpretation is at its core.

Physiotherapists work in a wide variety of health settings such as intensive care, mental illness, stroke recovery, occupational health and care of the elderly. In the context of the three facilities mentioned by the Senator, my Department has been advised by the Western Health Board that the provision of physiotherapy services at those venues has ceased temporarily, due to the senior physiotherapist being on leave due to illness. I understand from the board that it is hoped to resume service to both in-patients and out-patients early in the new year on the resumption of duty by the senior physiotherapist.