A new Irish healthcare startup is addressing the country’s shortage of home care staff, a major contributor to the capacity issues facing Ireland’s hospitals. Founded by James Magrane, a former advisor to a number of healthcare companies in the UK, InisCare has developed a supportive employment structure to encourage more people to the sector. In doing so, Magrane believes that we can help people to get home sooner and release much needed beds in our hospitals.
Last July the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reported that more than 7,000 admitted patients were waiting on trolleys across Ireland. In the same month it was revealed that 6,458 people with approved home care packages in March were still waiting for care.
“Staff shortages lie at the heart of these problems,” says Magrane, “so there is a significant amount of responsibility on the employer to make sure that all staff are treated well and given the support they need”.
“Staff are the most important resource in the healthcare sector. Just like any industry, without a well-trained and motivated workforce the service standards begin to drop and staff morale follows suit.”
In March this year over 18,000 bed days were lost because of delayed discharges from hospitals. While there were myriad reasons for this, there is no question that the lack of available home care services is one of the primary drivers.
“Working in home care is an extremely rewarding career. Every day our care assistants make a real difference to peoples’ lives by providing companionship and personal support to people who want to continue living independently at home. The problem is that the number of people who need support is far outstripping the people who can care for them. This is placing an enormous strain on care assistants and driving high levels of burnout in the sector”
This burnout is reducing the number of care assistants and tightening supply in a market where demand on our health sector is only going in one direction. In October last year the ESRI projected that Ireland will need up to 7 million additional home help hours per year and an extra 10,000 home care packages by 2030. Magrane estimates that this will require up to 14,500 more home care assistants.
Despite our relatively young population – Ireland has the youngest population in the EU with an average age of just 36.9 years compared to the EU average of 42.8 – it is clear that new ideas are needed to attract people to the sector and tackle this developing crises.
“Before starting InisCare I wanted to understand the daily challenges faced by people working in home care. I spoke with dozens of people in the sector and the message was clear; staff felt they were under-valued, lacked support and weren’t properly remunerated for their work. I wanted to start a home care company that placed staff wellbeing at its core. I want people to go to work with a smile on their faces. By achieving this our customers can be confident that the person caring for them is equally well supported, ensuring a friendly, high quality and reliable service.”
“We are already seeing a very positive response from care assistants and from the people receiving care.” says Magrane.
Only a month after launching, InisCare has had to pause its recruitment because of the number of applications coming through. In a free market economy and in a country with full employment, this appears to provide early validation of the company’s employment model.
So will treating staff better improve our capacity crisis? “Absolutely,” he says, “when you look at home care in particular, our care assistants play a vital role in Ireland’s health system. As well as enabling an efficient hospital discharge, they support people to maintain healthy and fulfilled lives at home, helping to prevent readmission and spotting any early signs of potential illness.”
“But it’s not just in home care. The same rules apply across all disciplines of the healthcare system. Managers need to work closely with their colleagues to understand what they can do to support their teams. With a bit of extra support and care, we can start to attract more people into healthcare and retain the staff we already have.”
It’s hard to argue with the logic. People working in the health sector spend their days looking after the wellbeing of others. Perhaps if management afforded their staff with the same levels of support, our ongoing crises would be no more.