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17th Jun 2022

Prime Time viewers left heartbroken after episode about home care crisis

“This is what lies ahead of us. It’s terrifying.”

RTÉ Prime Time viewers were left outraged after Thursday night’s episode explored the home care crisis in Ireland.

The lack of staff in the sector has resulted in thousands of older people finding themselves stuck in hospitals and nursing homes.

The episode delved into the experience of one elderly woman named Helen Harnett, who had suffered a stroke.

She has been in in St Ita’s Community Hospital in Limerick for over three years. Despite being approved for a home care package, she cannot go home.

“There’s no place like home,” Helen told Prime Time.

“I feel very disappointed. I worked all my life with the county council, and I paid my taxes. I’m here now, and I need help and I can’t get it.”

In the past, a lack of funding had been been the cause for a shortage of home care staff but that is not the case now.

Minister for Older People, Mary Butler, has a budget of €666 million for home supports this year.

Michael Harty, former owner of a private home care agency, told Prime Time the problem is that carers simply are not being paid enough.

“The HSE is paying roughly €27 an hour to private companies – and then private companies are paying carers €11 or €12 an hour,” he said.

“Do we have a shortage of carers, or do we just have a shortage of people who want to work for barely above the minimum wage?”

Viewers took to social media to express their frustration and concerns.

“Helen is 75. She was born in the late 40s. I was born in the early 70s, not that far behind her. If you were a teen in the 80s, be frightened. This is what lies ahead of us. It’s terrifying,” one person wrote.

Heartbreaking to hear the plight of people desperately in need of #homecare supports. Fair play to #rtept for highlighting this,” a second wrote.

“€27 – €30 per hour from the HSE to private companies per hour for home care & yet who those on the front line actually deliver the care get €11.50 per hour… This is a crisis” a third pointed out.