Home care workers express job fears

CONCERNS are growing amongst domiciliary care workers in Londonderry that their jobs are being gradually wound out of existence.

The workers who provide home based personal care for the elderly and infirm have hit out at the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) for reducing their patient case loads and as a result their working hours.

One of the out sourced contracted companies who provide this type of care in Londonderry is Partnership Care West. Michelle Donnell, who works for that organisation outlined her concerns to the Sentinel.

“People are currently not being sent home from hospital because no money is being released by the WHSCT for domiciliary care. It would probably actually be more expensive to keep people in hospital than provide home care.

“I have been down three calls since Christmas. Unfortunately, three people I looked after passed away, but the cases have not been replaced. This means my original 20 hours per week contract has been reduced to 12 hours,” she said.

Whilst Michelle and other workers have concerns for their future employment it was stressed that their job involves a personal element because workers become attached to the people they look after.

“It’s not just the workers who suffer here, but the people who are receiving care who are suffering more. Families are having to fill in the gap for care. And, those unfortunate enough not to have anyone to care for them are left on their own, left to fend for themselves,” said Michelle.

The Sentinel spoke to four other domiciliary care workers with Partnership Care West who echoed Michelle Donnell’s fears. Whilst the workers did not wish to be named they stated they believed that a shortfall in the WHSCT’S domiciliary care budget had resulted in the shortening of their hours.

One stated: “The Trust would normally release a funding block to the Partnership for a two year period. We have been told that the budget was over spent and is not being replaced. It is only going to get worse. This is not the fault of the company we work for but the Trust,” she said.

The Sentinel addressed the workers’ concerns to the WHSCT and a spokesperson for the organisation said: “During 2009/10 the Western Trust received a budget of approximately £24million to spend on domiciliary care. At the end of December 2009, this budget was overspent and the Trust sought to reduce this over expenditure by £250,000 between the start of February 2010 and 31 March 2010. The level of over expenditure reported at the end of February 2010 has shown reduction.

“The Trust achieved this by focusing any available domiciliary care resources towards those assessed as having critical levels of risk / need as defined within the Regional Access Criteria. This approach ensures resources are being directed towards those in greatest need.