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Health supports in Clare among worst in Ireland

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Clare is among the worst hit counties in Ireland for health supports and the worst in the West of Ireland for community health services, new research has shown.

Although the supply of podiatrists and chiropodists in Clare is above the national average, the same cannot be said for general practitioners, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, counsellors, psychologists, social workers plus speech and language therapists are at least ten percent less than most other counties. Home care hours in the county are the second worst in the Republic of Ireland.

Kildare has the most amount of services (9) under the national average with Wicklow, Waterford and Meath (8) following closely behind alongside Clare, Kilkenny and Waterford (7) according to research carried out by the ESRI. “A consistent pattern in low supply of care for many counties is observed,” the Geographic Profile of Healthcare Needs and Non-Acute Healthcare Supply in Ireland which is based on 2014 data stated.

“Changes in regional health and social care supply and population in the five years since our data were collected may have altered the actual situation away from some of the estimates in this report. However, in the absence of a national resource allocation system relating supply to population needs, it is likely that significant inequalities persist”.

In the county, the deaths per 1,000 population is 6.7%. 13,8% of the population is aged sixty five plus with 1.5% older than eighty five years old and 12.6% are said to have a disability.

Nearly one in two people living in Clare are in possession of a medical or GP visit card (46.9%), of those with a medical card 50.1% are receiving a prescription for a chronic health condition.

From 2004 to 2014, there was a 7% increase in the amount of full-time GPs working in Clare. However on a national scale, there is over 10% of a deficit in the quantity of GPs. “Compared with the national value, there are more estimated Whole Time Equivalent GPs per 10,000 population in areas along the west coast apart from Clare”.

Supply of physiotherapists is 8.5% off national levels, occupational therapists (3.7%), speech and language therapists (3.3%), counsellors/psychologists (4.9%) and social workers (4.3%). Chiropodists and podiatrists which is the only sector where Clare ranks above the national average, does so by a margin of 1.9%.

Fifteen long term residential care centres exist in the county according to the review with a total of 864 beds. The beds per 1,000 population aged sixty five and older is 52.8% and in this regard is 49% over the national value.

A total of 228,900 home help hours are offered through the 157 home care packages, the average time slot being 276,238 hours, a gap of 119,044 hours and in this sector Clare is the second worst county in the Republic of Ireland.

Authors of the report have flagged that the geographic imbalance in services will impinge on Sláintecare, the plan which is somewhat aimed at reorganising medical treatment to reduce pressure on acute hospitals.

“It demonstrates that without a resource allocation system there has been considerable regional inequality in the supply of non-acute services, and this cannot be explained on any needs basis we could identify. The analysis from the report also highlights the desirability of collecting better data to extend these analyses over time and to allow for consistent and systematic assessment of health and social care supply”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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