CUTbacks in home help hours will lead to premature deaths for those with chronic illnesses, according to Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald, North Mayo coroner.
Dr Fitzgerald’s comments came following an inquest into the death of an elderly man in Ballina who suffered with Parkinson’s Disease and depression.
Although the man was receiving home help at the time of his death, Dr Fitzgerald said if proposed cuts were to be brought in more deaths of this kind would happen.
“The importance of home help cannot be stressed enough. If there were to be reductions in the number of home help hours there would be an increase in the number of deaths among people with chronic illness.
“That’s not to say they would all take their own lives but there would be an increase in depression and certainly other mental health issues and quality of life would be diminished. It would end up with early demise [for those with chronic illness],” she said.
The proposed cutbacks would mean the number of home help hours a patient will be entitled to will be cut to a maximum of 7.5 a week, which can only be availed of Monday to Friday during office hours. The service would be restricted to medical card holders and home helps would be restricted to providing personal care for clients rather than also helping with house cleaning.
After meeting with Cabinet earlier this month, Health Minister James Reilly reversed the proposed cuts in home help; however, no assurances about possible future cuts were made.
Opposition Mayo TD Dara Calleary agreed with Dr Fitzgerald and said no breakdown of cuts in Mayo had yet been released by the minister.
“There is no doubt it would have a detrimental effect on these people. Home help allows people to live in their own communities that would otherwise not be able to look after themselves. It’s better from a health prospective and from an economic stance to retain home help.
“We have had no details of the cutbacks in the health service in Mayo from the minister [James Reilly]. People are ringing me every day wanting to know if their loved ones will be receiving care,” he said.