SIPTU has called on the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, to immediately increase funding to HSE Home Care services in order to tackle the issue of delayed discharge and overcrowding of patients across the public hospital network. SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “There are currently 800 patients waiting to be discharged from hospitals across the State. While many of these will need nursing home care, many more can and should be enabled to return to their own homes where they can be supported through HSE Home Care services. We have thousands of SIPTU members working as Home Helps who are ready, willing and able to provide the necessary supports to facilitate such a process. “However, over 2 million hours have been cut from Home Care services since 2008, with cutbacks only coming to a halt after a concerted campaign by our union. One legacy of these cuts is that patients who could be supported at home are now more likely to remain in hospital care. At the same time underemployment is now a common feature throughout the Home Care workforce”.  A SIPTU survey has revealed that nearly 7 out of 10 Home Care workers currently have less than 20 hours work per week. The same survey also indicates that 4 out of 5 such workers are seeking additional hours of work. This means in many cases a home care service could be provided for hospital patients enabling many of them to return to live in their own homes under a tailored care plan. Paul Bell added: “The minister needs to act now to restore funding and hours to this critical service as a key measure to address the ongoing hospital crisis. A comprehensive Government response which addresses the issues of understaffing in our hospitals, and the restoration of hospital beds remains central to any long-term solution to the current crisis. However, provision of adequate funding for HSE Home Care services is one important measure that could quickly assist in alleviating the current situation.”