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HSE spent almost €300k burying people who were homeless or had no known family

The money was spent over the last three years.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/P. Qvist

THE HEALTH SERVICE Executive (HSE) has spent almost €300,000 over the past three years on burial expenses on patients who died in its care and had no family to pay for the burials.

Some of those who the HSE assisted included those who were made homeless prior to their hospital admission and had no known family.

Figures from the HSE’s 2016 annual report show the executive spent €94,277 on “burial expenses” last year. This followed a spend under the same heading of €91,000 in 2015 and a spend of €106,000 in 2014.

The detailed breakdown for 2016 shows that last year the biggest spender on burial expenses in the HSE was Cork University Hospital spending €40,834 – accounting for 43% of the national spend last year.

The figures, which vary widely across HSE areas, were provided in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

In the response, the FOI unit states that the HSE may pay for a person’s burial in a situation where they may have been in a long-stay or psychiatric unit for years, before being transferred to an acute setting upon becoming acutely ill “and there may be no record of living family members who would have made themselves known to that unit”.

Homeless 

The FOI unit stated that the HSE may also step in where “people who had been homeless prior to admission to the acute hospital may not have been in a position to provide details of family”.

The unit states: “In such cases, an acute hospital would liaise with HSE Community Services. Where the burial expenses of a deceased person are to be met by the HSE, it is usually the Coroner or the Community Welfare Officer who arranges same.”

The HSE FOI unit said that “burial expenses are normally borne by relatives”.

The unit added: “In some instances, a HSE service – including, but not limited to, acute hospitals – may cover burial expenses, eg in the case of people who pass away in that unit or hospital with no known relatives.”

Breakdown of expenses 

The breakdown of the figures shows the spend last year was highest in the HSE South and South Eastern area containing Cork University Hospital and totalled €62,830.

The figures show that in that area, University Hospital Waterford spent €6,358, while a further €6,336 was spent on burial expenses at Carlow District Hospital.

The figures also show that St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny spent €3,418 on burials, with Wexford General Hospital spending €3,887 under that heading. The spend at Kerry General Hospital in 2016 stood at €1,611.

The second highest spend was in the HSE East Coast region, where the spend totalled €10,390 for 2016 – this was made up of a spend €5,070 in the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum and a spend of €5,320 at St Colmcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown.

The third highest spending area on burial expenses was the HSE Midwest area where the spend totalled €9,988 – that included a spend of €7,540 at the University Maternity Hospital, Limerick.

The spend in the HSE Midlands area totalled €6,840, while the spend in the HSE Northern area totalled €3,000. The spend in the HSE South West area totalled €1,230.

Read: ‘It’s a nuisance’: Thousands of homes and businesses in Kerry are still without water

Read: Changes to the Junior Cycle include a ‘wellbeing programme’ for students

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Gordon Deegan

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