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Delayed patient discharges costing €550,000 per night

680 patients are occupying hospital beds around the country at a cost of €800-900 per night each, according to figures put before the Public Accounts Committee.

John Sherwin from the Dublin City charity, Care Local, visits 87-year-old Joe Reddin to deliver groceries.
John Sherwin from the Dublin City charity, Care Local, visits 87-year-old Joe Reddin to deliver groceries.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE DELAYED DISCHARGE of patients is costing €550,000 per night, according to figures made public today.

680 patients are occupying hospital beds around the country at a cost of €800-900 per night, despite the fact that their acute care has ended and they are medically fit to be discharged, said Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI). They estimate this as costing the same as 25,000 hours of home care.

Almost 90 per cent of these are elderly patients over the age of 65 for whom alternative arrangements have not been put in place.

‘These figures are extremely worrying. In times of difficult decisions being made, red tape and bureaucracy is leading to this massive backlog in the system, which is piling up costs by the minute” said Michael Harty, Co-Chair of HCCI. “The Government needs to overhaul how we fund care for older people, and how people access that care, to give choice back to the patient and encourage a more cost-effective approach based on need and preference.”

A HSE report supplied to the Public Accounts Committee showed that 44 patients have been waiting six months or more to be discharged. Using the HSE’s own figures, HCCI estimate that this could amount to a cost of €6,336,000 – over half the proposed €12.5 million cut to home care services recently announced by the HSE.

“Delayed discharges are just one part of a much wider problem in the existing system which favours the ring-fencing of one type of care over another”, added Mr Harty.

The Fair Deal scheme currently accounts for over 70% of the total €1.4 billion budget despite the fact that it is stated government policy and patient’s overwhelming preference to remain in the home as long as possible. Not only could improved home care provision speed up discharges, but it could help elderly, dependent people to live longer at home and prevent unnecessary admission in the first place.

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