HSE may go to court to eject patients
HSE chief Tony O'Brien has not ruled out taking court action for the removal of a patient who no longer needs acute care but refuses to leave hospital - despite supports being provided.
Mr O'Brien was speaking yesterday after an outcry over an internal memo which said legally these patients are "trespassers" and could be removed with minimum force.
Mr O'Brien apologised for the offence caused by the memo, which he said was prompted by a case involving a patient in 2012 who would not leave hospital.
He stressed that cases like those happen rarely. It led to a call for clarification.
He said the HSE would never use minimum force, but may have to take court action.
The memo should not have been circulated as widely as it had been, he said.
Two years ago, St James's Hospital had to go to court after an elderly patient who had been there for four years refused to leave.
The case went to the High Court and the hospital argued it had secured a nursing home place for the patient, which was more suitable to their needs.
Hospitals frequently have to deal with a range of social problems relating to a patient's home life, which can lead to problems around discharge.
Mr O'Brien told the Oireachtas Health Committee that hospitals would never resort to physical force to remove a patient from a ward.
He said the memo refers to the law "and it was withdrawn after two weeks".