Former hospitals chief made safety warning
Patient safety was at risk due to the hundreds of hospital beds occupied by mostly frail elderly people needing a nursing home place or a home care package, a former HSE director warned last September.
Dr Tony O'Connell, the HSE's former head of acute hospitals and chairman of the taskforce on emergency departments, issued the warning months before the crisis in trolley numbers in January.
Dr O'Connell, who returned to Australia last month, said in his September report that 703 so-called delayed discharges were in hospitals at that point, some of them for over three years.
These patients were at risk due to the possibility of infection and other problems while others, who were enduring long waits on trolleys in emergency departments, were also in danger, he added.
He warned "from a quality and safety perspective this situation is unacceptable".
He wanted funding taken from hospitals to be put towards the Fair Deal nursing home support scheme, the report obtained by RTÉ's 'Prime Time' programme revealed.
Around €3m was released late last year and another €25m came on stream in early 2015. However, the number of delayed discharges remains high and there has been little respite for hospital overcrowding,
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said the budget cap on Fair Deal funding should be removed to improve the flow of people from hospitals to nursing homes. It is feared that the waiting lists for a nursing home will soon lead to delays in hospital discharges of up to five months.