HSE asked to apologise for memo on patients not vacating beds

Withdrawn document advised hospital staff on ‘trespassers’ who refuse to leave beds

A HSE memo told nurses they  had the authority to move a patient within a hospital using “minimum force”. Photograph: Getty Images

A HSE memo told nurses they had the authority to move a patient within a hospital using “minimum force”. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been urged to apologise for a memo advising hospital staff how to remove “trespassing” patients who refuse to give up their beds.

The chairwoman of the Oireachtas committee on the future of healthcare, Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall, also called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to investigate how the memo, which has been withdrawn, came about.

Mr Harris has already criticised the memo, saying it was offensive and unacceptable.

The document was prepared by legal advisers for the health services and issued to the national director of acute hospitals, Liam Woods, last month. It was withdrawn a fortnight later, after Mr Woods deemed it inappropriate.

The document, which sets out the legal position on removing patients who are unwilling to leave a hospital bed but no longer require treatment, came to light after queries to the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) from members of the union.

Minimum force

They expressed concern about advice contained in the memo, which stated that a nurse had the lawful authority to move a patient from ward to ward within a hospital, regardless of the wishes of the patient, and to remove a person who refused to leave a bed, using “minimum force” if necessary.

Edward Mathews, the INMO’s director of regulation and social policy, said nurses should under no circumstances use any force to remove a patient who refused to vacate a bed. He said such an approach was immoral and would leave hospital staff liable for disciplinary action, as well as breaching their code of professional conduct.

The union has said no member should become involved in the forcible removal of patients from beds, and should refuse to do this if told to do so by a manager.

However, it acknowledged the HSE had provided assurances the memo had been withdrawn.