A County Limerick mother-of-seven, whose eldest child has cerebral palsy and requires 24 hour care, has been left “angry” and “distraught” after the HSE cut her home-help hours.
Catherine Brosnan, a well-known fundraiser in West Limerick, has been reliant on the services of the HSE-provided home help scheme since her son Christopher, 15, was born with the condition, which inhibits movement, and prevents the youngster from speaking.
Catherine was told by the health service on Friday, October 26, that the home help service for her son was being slashed from two hours a day, to just one hour in the morning due to government cutbacks.
She says a representative for the health service left the message on her answering phone.
It means that instead of two hours of home help care each day, she now gets just one hour - and Catherine says this is not enough, because the time taken to get her eldest son ready can vary wildly.
While the cuts came in last week, it is only this week the real impact has been felt, because the school term has started again.
Since her husband Brendan is forced to work 10-hour days, it is left up to Catherine to get Christopher ready in the morning.
Meanwhile, her home help - who travels from Castleisland every day - would look after the other children, Ciara, 14, Aoife, 10, Brendan, 8, Sinead, 6, and Eoin, 4 and Katy, just 11 months.
Catherine - who has raised €60,000 in the past five year’s for her son’s school St Gabriel’s, Dooradoyle - said getting Christopher ready can take an hour in the morning.
“I would wake up at 6.30 every morning, and then wake Christopher at seven. He would have a mild seizure after waking, so you cannot feed him for 15 to 20 minutes.
He is then slow to feed. It takes time to care, and we need to give him that time. You cannot rush him. It might take 20 minutes to feed him one morning, it might take an hour the next day. You cannot time him,” she said,
“It is tough to get everything done in one hour. It is fine if you are talking about a healthy child. But we have a child here with special needs, and people need to realise this.”
Catherine says she is now surviving on just four hours of sleep a night.
The cut has angered her, because she feels she is saving the government money by not sending her son into a 24-hour state-supported care home.
“I feel very tired. I have no time for myself,” she said pointing out that even when Christopher goes off to school, she has to pick up her other children from playschools and schools across the county.
“We never really can plan anything. You work around Christopher all the time. But I don’t mind, because at the end of the day, we have adapted to it, and we all love him,” she added.
Catherine admits she is at the end of her tether - and believes it will get worse as Christmas approaches.
Holding back tears, she said: “Christopher hasn’t a voice. I am Christopher’s voice. If Christopher had a voice, he would say ‘don’t do this to my Mum,’ I think it is disgusting. It is so hard,” she said.
In a statement, the Health Service Executive said: “When any person enters into a relationship with the health service, they are entitled to the confidence of knowing that information generated in the course of that relationship will be protected and will not be the subject of debate.”