'Zero tolerance' for long trolley waits to tackle chronic A&E overcrowding
Hospitals are being told to have "zero tolerance" of any patient enduring more than 24 hours on a trolley after a doctor decides they need a bed.
New targets are set out in a major new plan backed by €74m ring-fenced funding to ease 'bed blocking' and remove pressures on the country's emergency departments.
And the plan comes as it emerged a major review of the State's Fair Deal Scheme has recommended elderly people hand over a larger slice of their estate and weekly income to help cover the cost of nursing home bills.
One of the recommendations for funding the costly scheme into the future could see elderly people sign up to hand over 30pc of their home.
Under the current scheme, people have to contribute 7.5pc of their assets such as savings or properties each year for three years. However, this cap could rise to 10pc, according to the major review seen by RTÉ's 'Prime Time'.
In addition, people are required to contribute 80pc of their income, but this could rise for those with additional income to the State pension.
Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch said the Fair Deal scheme would need "additional resources" in the future, and that the decision that needs to be made now was "whether or not it is a contribution from the individual or from the taxpayer from the central purse".
The junior minister said that the review "lays out a number of options" for the Government.
"If more people are in need of the service, which we believe they are entitled to, then clearly it is going to cost more and we need to start planning for that," she added. "Those are the decisions that we will have to make and they are difficult decisions."
Ms Lynch joined Health Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday to launch the multi-million euro plan to ease pressure on emergency departments, with new targets including having no more than 500 so-called "delayed discharges" blocking beds in hospitals at the end of this year.
A hospital emergency department should also have no more than 70 patients waiting on any day for more than nine hours, it stated.
If any patient over 75 years old is waiting for a bed for more than nine hours, this should be reported to the National Hospital Director.
The plan, worked out by a task force set up to come up with solutions to the hospital overcrowding crisis, will provide €44m for another 1,600 nursing home places under Fair Deal, reducing waiting times from 11 weeks to four weeks.
Another €30m will be spent between now and June on short stay and convalescence beds to allow patients waiting for long-term care or home care packages to be discharged from hospital to make room for new admissions.
Some 250 community care beds will be made available, with 715 hospital patients currently needing a discharge.