550 extra homecare packages to relieve winter trolley crisis

The HSE is set to roll out 550 additional homecare packages over the winter in a desperate bid to relieve the worst weeks of the trolley crisis.

The series of emergency measures, costing around €16m as part of the HSE’s winter plan, will see the triggering of a new suite of supports.

Scores of mostly elderly and other hospital patients who are no longer in need of acute care will be allowed home with the support for Christmas.

The winter plan is expected to be finalised this week and the aim is to empty as many hospital beds as possible by the middle of next month in readiness for the post-Christmas and new year surge in A&E patients.

There are currently more than 610 patients – commonly known as bed blockers or delayed discharges – who need to be discharged but they cannot leave without supports.

Health Minister Simon Harris, who is under pressure to ensure last winter’s record levels of A&E overcrowding are not repeated, said the funding will also cover extra aids and appliances, as well as transitional beds.

These transitional beds allow patients to leave hospital and have a half-way house between acute care and eventually returning home full-time or opting for a nursing home.

“I had asked the HSE as part of its preparations for winter to focus its efforts on initiatives to enable the hospital setting to de-escalate before Christmas, including social care supports,” he said.

“The introduction of 550 additional homecare packages, additional transitional care beds and €4m for aids and appliance will assist older people get home from hospital before Christmas and into the new year.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil has said the Fair Deal scheme needs to be revamped in order to make it more accessible to families.

The difficulty faced by families navigating the “complex” system was noted in an expert review of delayed discharges this week.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on older people Mary Butler said the complexities can often cause families to “panic” if they decide to opt for Fair Deal, which sees families assessed to determine how much of the cost of nursing home care they can afford to pay, with the State paying the balance. It is contributing to slowing the rate at which hospital beds are becoming free.

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