HSE bid for €100m to cut hospital overcrowding rejected

Nurses say industrial action ‘inevitable’ unless staff added and public beds reopened

A steep rise in the number of delayed discharges of patients unnecessarily occupying beds is being blamed for much of the rise in overcrowding in recent months. File phtograph:  Frank Miller/The Irish Times

A steep rise in the number of delayed discharges of patients unnecessarily occupying beds is being blamed for much of the rise in overcrowding in recent months. File phtograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The Government rejected a request by the Health Service Executive before the last budget for €100 million to free up hospital beds and reduce overcrowding.

Demand for beds resulted in 563 patients on hospital trolleys on Monday, the second highest figure on record.

A steep rise in the number of delayed discharges of patients unnecessarily occupying beds is being blamed for much of the rise in overcrowding in recent months.

The HSE’s €100 million plan to discharge hundreds of elderly patients to step-down facilities such as nursing homes would have greatly reduced the pressure on emergency departments.

Instead, €25 million was allocated to tackle the problem.

Industrial action

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation

The HSE has appealed to patients to go to their GPs in the first instance instead of going to a hospital emergency department.

It said all hospitals had invoked plans to open additional overflow areas, cut back on non-emergency surgery, provide additional testing facilities and strengthen the discharge planning for patients.

“Hospitals are currently taking these steps, as required, so that patients who need to be admitted to hospital are admitted to a bed as soon as possible.”

The number of patients on trolleys peaked at 569 in 2011, after which the Government committed to never again allowing them to rise so high.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has promised a number of short-term measures to alleviate pressure on emergency departments this winter.

Last month, he warned the 569 target was in danger of being breached if additional community beds and extra nursing home places were not provided and planned surgery cancelled.

The €25 million provided in the budget for delayed discharge patients will be used to provide home care packages and short-stay beds in the greater Dublin area.

Extra money is also being provided to fund more nursing home places under the Fair Deal scheme.

Shocked

Liam Doran

There are 50 patients waiting for admission at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, 41 at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, 39 at St Luke’s in Kilkenny and 34 at Mayo General Hospital.

The HSE apologised to patients and their families for any distress caused by the delays experienced in emergency departments.