A senior Derry cleric has described cuts in domiciliary care as attacks on the most vulnerable people in society.
Fr Michael Canny, Administrator at St Eugene’s Cathedral, made the comment in response to public debate on the need to reform health services in the North.
In an opinion article published in the ‘Sunday Journal’, Fr Canny said that the manner in which society addresses sickness and human inadequacy “tells us something of what we think of life”.
He said: “There is much talk of need to reform the health services. Our current economic crisis will inevitably have serious effects on the level of health care services, which can be provided in the immediate future, with effects not only on the sick and those awaiting medical attention.
“It will also have effects on family members and carers.
“While visiting the sick and elderly recently I am very conscious of how the paid time of carers has been greatly reduced. The various carers, in many cases, are the only contact the sick and elderly have with the outside world.
“To reduce paid time for each visit by half, as has been done recently, is very much an attack on the weakest and most vulnerable in our communities.”
Fr Canny’s comments follow appeals from politicians in Derry for increased investment in domiciliary care the city.
Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson warned of an “age timebomb” as the number of people aged over 65 years-old in the city is expected to rise by more than 50 per cent in the next seven years.
Fr Canny believes that the public should share a new sense of common responsibility for the sick, lonely and elderly in the current climate of cutbacks across the economy.
“We must continually fight to ensure that the sick and elderly can live within their own familiar environment for as long as possible and with the highest degree of dignity as possible.
“When people are no longer fully self sufficient and perhaps with few close relatives, we should never allow them to be ‘parked’ in some anonymous institution but try to find ways that they are remembered by the communities in which they lived and worked.”
He added that older citizens need to know that “even in weakened condition” they have a contribution through wisdom to make to society.
A spokesperson for the Western Trust said recently that the domiciliary care placements depend on each individual client’s needs and on resources available for their provision.
“Given the extremely challenging financial climate for health and social care provision, the Trust continues to prioritise these placements and domiciliary care support for those in greatest need.”