Crucial that Government focuses on Home Care

HCCI, the representative body for home care providers, met with Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, Minister of State for Older People, Jim Daly TD and HSE officials this week and agreed to a four point ‘Home Care Plan’. Fifty-eight of Home and Community Care Ireland’s (HCCI) 20,000 home care clients have tested positive for COVID-19.

HCCI is confident that the HSE and Department of Health will quickly operationalise what was agreed at the meeting to ensure as many vulnerable people as possible can remain in the safety of their homes and that home care provision is supported in order to maintain the current low rate of infection.

Joseph Musgrave, CEO, HCCI said, “58 of our 20,000 clients have so far tested positive for COVID-19. Home is so far proving the safest place for people to be – but we cannot be complacent. Building on yesterday’s meeting with the Minister and the HSE, we need to quickly lock in what was agreed, both to keep the rate of infection among vulnerable home care clients as low as possible and to secure the last frontier of the pandemic. An important part of this work is looking to the future and how we can maximise home care capacity as we adapt to the ‘new normal’ and continue to keep COVID-19 at bay. We welcome the Minister’s support for home care and his recognition of the wonderful and important work that home carers are doing right across the country.”

The four elements of the Home Care Plan discussed during the video conference are pay stability for the home care sector; cost and procurement of PPE; increased testing of home care clients and carers, and progressing work on the development of the statutory home care scheme as soon as possible. 

Pay Stability

It was agreed that the HSE will provide more stability on the pay policy for cancelled hours, which currently represent 20 per cent of hours normally serviced by HCCI members. The HSE said they will give the sector more notice of the pay position to facilitate planning and to maximise home care provision. HCCI care staff whose clients are self-isolating, will be available to support colleagues in the nursing home sector under the terms of the staff redeployment agreement of Tuesday, April 28. This is understood to be a temporary and extraordinary measure with home care provision remaining the first concern for HCCI members.

PPE

As of Wednesday, April 22, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommend that face masks should be worn by all home care workers. HCCI, HSE and the Department of Health will develop a transparent mechanism for the supply and recharging of costs for face masks between HCCI and the HSE. 

Testing

As of Sunday, April 26, just 58 of HCCI’s 20,000 clients have tested positive for COVID-19. It was agreed during the meeting that testing for home carers and home care clients would be scaled up to support maintaining this low rate of infection. HCCI members, many of whom employ qualified nurses in their organisations, could potentially support the roll out of testing.

Future of Home Care

Legislation for a statutory home care scheme is due to be delivered by the Government in 2021. While it is understandable that work has been paused on this during the present crisis, HCCI is urging the Government to resume work on this as soon as possible.  

Musgrave continued, “COVID-19 has changed the paradigm for how we care for vulnerable people. The statutory scheme for home care is an important element in offering individuals and families a real choice about their care. Many people will want to remain in their home to receive care well in advance of a new home care scheme in 2021. In light of COVID-19, and that our homes are the safest place to be, the statutory home care scheme is more urgent than ever and work needs to continue to empower vulnerable people to make choices about their care.”

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