Respite care cuts are ‘a blow to elderly lifeline’

This is the human face of those affected by the cuts to respite care services for elderly patients at a Southside hospital.


Philomena Butler (74) was recently told by the Health Services Executive (HSE) that her bed in Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot will no longer be available from the end of May.

(Taken from Southside People Newspaper www.dublinpeople.com)

Philomena’s son Anthony takes care of her in the family home on Decies Road four days a week and she is cared for at Cherry Orchard for the other three days. Mr Butler (49), who himself is on a disability benefit, was one of the family members whom the HSE contacted to say that  respite care for his 74-year-old mother Philomena would cease at the end of May. He revealed his mother, who is wheelchair bound, has required full time care since she acquired the MRSA superbug at another Dublin hospital some years ago.
He said he was shocked to hear the news and now fears for both his mother’s mental and physical state because of the imminent loss of the respite bed.
“It is the only time I have seen my mother happy,” he said. “If she is left looking at four walls in the house she gets depressed. She likes it up there but for them [HSE] to take that away, shame on them.
“My mother worked all her life and now half the time she lies in the bed and won’t get up out of it. I’m very afraid that the depression will get worse.
“The HSE should be disbanded,” he added. “Mary Harney should go but it doesn’t matter who takes her place because we will still have problems. We might be one of the richest countries in the world but we have a third world health service.”
Philomena said: “It will affect me because it gives me plenty of rest up there and gives Anthony a rest as well. It was only three days a week. I think it is very unfair and it is ridiculous what they are doing. I think they are treating us very badly.”
Protests are due to take place this week outside Cherry Orchard following the HSE announcement that they are to drastically cut the respite care services at the hospital.
Cherry Orchard Hospital provided short-term care to about 40 elderly patients who were generally also looked after by members of their families.
The hospital opened two new wards in October 2007 and at the time carers were informed there would be an increase in respite care. However, the HSE confirmed last week that up to half of the beds at the hospital may close next month.
Late last month representatives of the HSE in the area rang families who are in receipt of respite care to inform them that the service will be terminated indefinitely from June 1.
The service ensured that the patients and their carers were not overburdened or put at any risk of isolation and stress. It allowed for families who were unable to move about freely in normal circumstances to receive some respite and a break from the pressures and stresses that caring at home brings about.
Ballyfermot based People Before Profit campaigner, Bríd Smith, said that instead of rewarding carers and providing more services for patients, the HSE had “cut off their lifeline”.
Ms Smith, who led a massive protest rally through the centre of Dublin attended by over 20,000 people last Saturday week, said: “Many carers have told me that their own mental health and wellbeing, as well as that of their loved ones, will be put at risk because of these cuts.”
“Ballyfermot can expect to be without a respite service for a long time to come,” she added. “But we will not take this lying down. We are planning protests and local action to highlight this issue and to try to force the HSE to rescind these cuts.”
Dublin South Central TD Mary Upton (Lab) described the cuts as “an unjustified attack on elderly people and those who care for them”.
“The decision to cut these vital services will only cause pressure on A&E departments and acute beds and will also cause considerable distress to carers and their families,” Deputy Upton said.
In a statement the HSE said: “There will still be 12 respite beds available at Cherry Orchard Hospital following the decision to close a small number of beds at the hospital from the end of May this year. This is essential to achieve the HSE’s requirement to keep expenditure levels within budget.
“The HSE will, of course, keep the situation regarding the reduction of the beds under regular review and will reopen beds at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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