SIPTU Home Helps held protests outside three hospitals on Thursday (15th January) to highlight the role they can play in solving the overcrowding crisis in our hospitals. The protests took place outside Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15, St. James's Hospital, Dublin 8, and the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar, Westmeath.Frances Whelan, a Home Help from Blanchardstown and SIPTU activist, said: "People are stuck on trolleys and we know we can help. There are many people in hospital beds who with the correct support can return home and be cared for by the Home Help service."However, cutbacks in our service mean that for increasing numbers this is not a viable option. We want to get the message to the public that Home Helps are here in the local community and we are ready, willing and able to work".A SIPTU survey has revealed that nearly seven out of ten Home Help workers currently have less than 20 hours work per week. The same survey also indicates that four out of five such workers are seeking additional hours of work. This means in many cases a Home Help service could be provided for hospital patients enabling many of them to return to live in their own homes under a tailored care plan.SIPTU Organiser, Dave Curran, said: "A lack of available hospital beds is a crucial factor in this worsening crisis. However, there are currently 800 patients waiting to be discharged from hospitals across the State". She added: "The crisis in our hospitals is integrally linked to the running down of health services within our communities. Nearly three million hours have been cut from Home Help services since 2008, with cutbacks only coming to a halt after a concerted campaign by our union.