HSE memo brands patients 'trespassers'
The HSE has had to withdraw an internal memo which described patients as "trespassers" and said nurses could use "minimum force" to remove them to free up beds.
The starkly-worded memo referred to legal powers open to staff in relation to patients who are deemed delayed discharges, most of whom are elderly, who longer need hospital care and can leave once supports are arranged.
The controversial memo, described as a briefing note, outlined the legal powers of hospitals to remove these patients who are either unable or unwilling to leave.
It said the right of the patients to be in the hospital was "merely a licence and once that has been abused, the nurse is also legally entitled to remove the person as a trespasser , using minimum force to do so."
A nurse would be entitled to place the patient in a discharge lounge.
The HSE's National Director of Acute Hospitals, Liam Woods, apologised for the memo and ordered that it be rescinded.
A spokesman for the HSE said yesterday that it is "not HSE policy to remove any patient, clinically discharged or otherwise, from a hospital bed.
"The information in the memo referred to reflects the current legal position and was shared by way of information with hospital managers following a request by a third party for clarification on this matter. It has been rescinded."
The HSE has declined to say who wrote the memo.
There were 538 patients, classed as delayed discharges in hospitals across the country yesterday.
Health Minister Simon Harris, who learned of the memo on October 27, said it is "utterly offensive and unacceptable'. He asked for its immediate withdrawal while his officials are "engaging" with the HSE.
Meanwhile, figures obtained by Fianna Fáil Dublin West TD Jack Chambers reveal the extent to which under-pressure hospitals have lost nurses in the last decade. The drop has ranged from 1pc to 42.7pc.
It comes as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) ballots for industrial action on understaffing.
Deputy Chambers warned: "It's very concerning to see so many of our busiest hospitals have lost nurses in recent years despite promises by the Government to deliver a properly functioning healthcare system. It's a further illustration and stark example of the Government's failure to retain and recruit frontline staff.
"Nurses working on the frontline are overstretched and an intensification of recruitment must occur without any delay. Despite all the announcements, the Government has neglected this area," he added.