BEDRIDDEN almost all of the time and unable to move freely around his home, Jimmy Leonard depends on carers several times a day.
He lives near Florencecourt and was left paralysed from the chest down in 2004 following a car accident meaning he requires two carers in the morning, two at lunch time, one at tea time and two at night.
“Most of the time I am in bed,” said Mr. Leonard, his voice weak and his tone sombre.
He enjoys watching television, usually old films starring John Wayne, but they are of little comfort to him at the moment as he worries about the future of care provision in Fermanagh.
“Not this weekend but the weekend after I might have nobody at all, I can’t do without them.”
Mr. Leonard has witnessed from his bed the pressures that carers who visit him face each day; the long hours, the punishing working schedule.
“They come in and they turn me, give me my dinner, tea, wash me and things like that. There’s big pressure on them, some of them are working very late at night, maybe until 12 o’clock at night. They haven’t enough carers,” he told The Impartial Reporter.
The issue for Mr. Leonard is not the carers from providers such as North West Care, where it’s understood there have been issues recently, but the decision makers within the healthcare sector.
“I just want care. They need a rest, they are working too many days,” he said.
Pensioner Mary Kerrins who lives outside Enniskillen shares Mr. Leonard’s views.
“I have carers coming at night, morning and afternoon. They make me a drop of tea or a dish of custard,” said the 83 year old who suffers from osteoporosis.
“I have issues with my back, my legs, have very bad mobility and I am not able to walk much. I am not able to do anything in the house or get anything to eat for myself.
“I spent a term in bed with a fractured back, the bones are that weak. If I go to town it’s in a wheelchair,” she said.
Like Mr. Leonard, Mrs. Kerrins is full of praise for the carers who look after her but she has noticed a change in recent weeks.
“The carers are a lifeline but the last two weeks it has been terrible. They have too much to do, they haven’t time to talk to people. I had a carer at the weekend and it was half past eleven by the time she got here to put me to bed,” she explained.
The carer should have been with her at 10 o’clock but arrived an hour and a half later.
“The carers are under pressure, my goodness. The lady came to me and she had to sit on the chair she was that done out. At half past eleven and out from seven o’clock in the morning. They haven’t time; they come in, get the clothes off you and get you into bed and away they go. And once the carer leaves me she has at least four other people to put to bed.
“They just have to get the job done and that’s it. They haven’t got enough carers and that’s the problem. They are putting pressures on the other carers to do all the work,” she said.
A week ago Mrs. Kerrins received a phone call to inform her that there was no carer available for her that coming weekend. At first, she was startled.
“I said, ‘what?’ I said, ‘I have got to have a carer for the weekend’. She phoned me back to say there there was someone coming to me. The lady didn’t come, it was another lady that it was pushed onto who had too much to do already,” she said.
Mrs. Kerrins says she desperately needs the care provision and “cannot do without it.”
“My ultimate worry is that they are going to cut it down eventually and not give them enough time. I’d be worried that they would cut it and I’d have nobody and I wouldn’t know what to do,” she said.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for North West Care explained that the company which has an office in Enniskillen commenced a new contact from March 1 with the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
“During this time the company has had no resignations from any staff member in the Fermanagh area. We appreciate that service user care plans change from time to time and we work closely with all parties to ensure a smooth transition. Individual care plans are arranged and agreed by the Western Health and Social Care Trust and the service users/family, and it is our role to implement them.
“North West Care have appropriate care arrangements in all areas of Fermanagh that we operate in, and if any of our service users or families have any concerns or feedback we would encourage them to get in touch with our management team directly on 028 77 72 35 217,” she said.
A spokesman for the Western Trust and Social Care Board explained that it recently awarded new contracts for the provision of independent sector domiciliary care, including in Fermanagh.
“We are working with service users via social services and care providers to ensure there is a smooth transition for each service user care plan.
“We would encourage any service users, guardian or family member that has concerns about any element of their care plan to get in touch directly with their nominated Trust social worker/key-worker to enable issues to be resolved in a timely manner,” he said.