I ask the Minister for Health and Children how much longer elderly people will have to remain on home help priority waiting lists in counties Roscommon and Leitrim, my constituency area, before home help is made available. Is the Minister aware that persons in their late 80s and 90s are on this list for months? This must be resolved immediately.
In recent months my office and I have dealt with several issues regarding home help which I want to put on the record of the Dáil. Elderly people have been on waiting lists for months and remain on the lists until they can no longer cope and must go into nursing homes. Only very high dependency cases get home help cover for annual leave, which is unsatisfactory. There is no cover for Saturdays and Sundays unless palliative care is required. Primary care teams have been rolled out in Castlerea and Ballaghadereen, and more will follow in Boyle, Monksland and areas of Leitrim, which I welcome, but no extra funding has been granted for home help, which should be part of the primary care team package.
I know a lady who is 99 years of age and living in my home town of Boyle. The public health nurse requested a few hours home help for her and she was assessed and put on the waiting list five and a half months ago. She is still on that waiting list, which is unacceptable. The family of an elderly lady in Leitrim sought a few hours home help. When the HSE assessed her needs, home help was granted but just six weeks later it was withdrawn and she was left to fend for herself again. A person in Ballaghadereen, County Roscommon, who provides care for her family 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sought just two to three hours home help to allow her to do the shopping, make visits to the doctor and so on. An assessment was made and the family member involved was put on this endless waiting list.
A man in Castlerea was assessed and approved for five hours home help last May. He was put on the waiting list and as a result of not getting a few hours home help as a back-up, he is depressed and in care of the psychiatric services. A member of another family asked for a few hours home help but, on stating that if home help was not forthcoming her parents would have to go into a nursing home, was told categorically as this would not be coming out of "their" budget, it would not affect the home help department. An elderly person was in Sligo Hospital. Her family applied for home help and a discharge but she was put on the long waiting list when, but for the lack of a few hours home help, she could have returned to her own home.
Having checked with families before this debate, I know of several elderly people on a waiting list for home help who could not cope with the long list and were forced to go into nursing homes. I have the names and addresses of all these people, of whom there are many more. The Minister of State, Deputy Hoctor, would agree this is unacceptable. We are trying to keep people out of nursing homes and hospitals. This is about value for money. Every day, like other Deputies throughout the country, I am dealing with this serious situation. Everyone claims it is a result of the budget, and that it has nothing to do with them or is the responsibility of another Department. I call on the Minister of State to resolve the situation. If she does, I will thank her and appreciate it. Value for money is the issue. Many families are waiting on extra home help hours. The sooner this impasse is broken through, the better. I thank the Minister of State for attending and look forward to her response.