HSE chief highlights €360m plan for community services in Limerick

Challenge facing psychiatry nursing and cost of care for 'complex disabilities'

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

HSE chief highlights €360m plan for community services in Limerick

HSE Mid-West chief officer, Bernard Gloster, announced plans for 2017

THE HSE has announced its long-list of objectives for the Mid-West region, which will see a projected spend of €361m this year.

Addressing elected representatives and members of the media at the HSE offices in Catherine Street, Mid-West chief officer, Bernard Gloster detailed a number of projects and initiatives that will be delivered over the next nine months in Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary.

Mr Gloster outlined support for a number of major initiatives this year, including the opening of the new hospice at Milford, the completion of the Lord Edward Street primary care centre, improvement to mental health services, such as the new Jisgaw project.

Of the €361m earmarked for the whole Mid-West, €86.66m will be spent on primary care services; €62.9m will be spent on mental health services; and €211.77m has been ringfenced for social care; while health and wellbeing initiatives will be covered by the national HSE budget.

The community healthcare services in the Mid-West, which excludes UL Hospitals Group operations, has a workforce of 3,915 people that serves a population of 380,000.

The HSE have stated that one of the main risks to the delivery of the goals in the Mid-West is the continued dependency on agency workers due to absenteeism, recruitment challenges and responding to clinical presentations.

One challenge, in particular, is the recruitment of psychiatric nurses in the region, Mr Gloster added.

“One of the significant problems that we have is, even when we agree with the trade unions what the appropriate levels of staffing is, recruitment in psychiatric nursing. It is a very, very significant pressure valve in Ireland, and it is likely to be for a number of years to come. The attrition rate is very high, the retirement rate is very high,” he explained this Monday.

The chief officer said that he is concerned about the growing pressure of caring for people with “complex disabilities”.

He said that the cost of care for someone with a complex disability can run from €100,000 to €300,000 per year, for the rest of their life.

“We have a lot of people, at home, who are caring for and supporting a family member with a very complex disability. And we are going to have to find increasing ways to support them, but we are also going to have to plan for down the road. And, as the years come, and as the people looking after them become older or pass away, our ability to respond to that is something that is continuously challenging.”

Mr Gloster said that there will be a particular focus on social inclusion health services for members of the Travelling community, people with addiction problems, and those who are homeless.

“They are three groups whose circumstances define that their health outcomes have been traditionally poor, so we have specific focus on those for what we call social inclusion.”

An estimated 930,000 home help hours and a minimum of 1,107 home care package clients will be delivered this year.

There will also be a focus on health and wellbeing, with a particular emphasis on the Healthy Ireland initiative. Some measures include monitoring the tobacco-free campus policies at facilities, improving uptake of the flu vaccine for “at risk” groups, and reducing the levels of chronic disease.

Mr Gloster argued that “80% of the  burden of the demand of our health services is caused by the fact that the population has a prevalence of chronic disease that is extremely high”.

It was also noted that a design team is due to be appointed by May for a development at St Camillus' Hospital on Shelbourne Road, which will result in 75 additional beds at a cost of around €16m.

It is hoped that the expanded facility, which comprises two new blocks, will be complete by 2021.