Just eight hospital patients, ready for discharge, are 'blocking beds'
Just eight of 458 patients currently occupying hospital beds - despite being well enough for discharge - are refusing to leave, it emerged yesterday.
The majority of these patients, termed 'delayed discharges', cannot leave until suitable care is ready - and many are waiting for their applications for financial support under the Fair Deal nursing home scheme to come through. Others need a home care package or remedial work on their houses because of a disability.
The HSE said it does not "collect information on specific reasons for people refusing to leave hospital."
HSE legal adviser Eunice O'Raw, in legal advice correspondence, said that some elderly farmers were refusing to leave hospital.
This was in order to protect their inheritance and avoid going through a means test for Fair Deal which takes the farm into account as an asset, forcing the potential sale of some land to meet the fees.
However, the HSE said it does not gather details of the family background of delayed discharges and could not say how many farmers were resisting discharge.
This information, however, would be available at hospital level where social workers are involved in organising step-down care for these patients.
The problem of elderly patients refusing to leave hospital was more prevalent before the start of the Fair Deal scheme as families faced the prospect of paying out huge bills for nursing home care.
Under the Fair Deal legislation, hospitals are allowed to charge these patients around €1,365 a week.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin was the first to impose this charge on six patients who were refusing to fill out forms to allow them to be financially assessed for the Fair Deal.
They were among 60 people, ready for discharge, given notice of the fee in recent years.
St James's Hospital also took legal action in 2014 against an elderly patient who had been occupying a bed for almost four years, although she was ready for discharge in 2010.
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She resisted offers to transfer to a nursing home and she was supported by her family.
A court order to pay fees to the hospital was appealed.
Only 17,000 people in the country have HSE-provided home care packages which allow the elderly to remain in their own homes.
Catherine Cox, of Family Carers Ireland, said until there was legislation introduced to underpin older people's access to home care support, it would continue to remain inequitable, problematic and unreliable.
"We welcome Older People Minister Helen McEntee's promise of a statutory entitlement to home care and, while we are conscious that this process will take time to get right," she said.
"In the short team there needs to be additional funding allocated towards home care as a matter of urgency. There are family carers across Ireland today who are struggling to care for their loved ones at home without adequate supports. Change must come sooner rather than later."