Patients stay in hospital even though they're not ill
HUNDREDS of patients are having to spend much of the summer in hospital - even though they are no longer ill.
New figures show that amongst the hospitals which are experiencing a rise in "delayed discharges" - people who are no longer acutely ill but have nowhere suitable to go - are Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, in the Dublin west heartland of new Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
The hospital has seen a 39pc rise in their numbers this year while the increase is 69pc in Cork University Hospital and 44pc in St Vincent's Hospital.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) admitted the most recent figures show 671 patients ready for discharge who could not leave because the nursing home place, rehabilitation bed or home care package was not ready.
"There appears to be an upward trend in the number of delayed discharges in 2014," it said. The comparitive figure for this time last year was 583.
An analysis shows that most need a nursing home place while one in 10 cannot return home until they get a home care package, including some which are specialised to meet their needs. Some 88 of those remaining in hospital are under 65 years of age.
The patients are occupying ward accommodation in the overcrowded hospitals even though hundreds of other people are on public waiting lists and need admission to undergo surgery or other procedures.
Dr Eamonn Dolan, a geriatrician in Connolly Hospital said a new medical assessment unit for patients who come to the A&E and need to have symptons such as chect infections, unexplained collapses or anaemia investigated, will relieve pressure on overcrowding.
"They need to be seen rapidly that day and investigated, while overseen by a senior doctor," he said.
"They will then be discharged or admitted. It will reduce unecessary admissions of patients."
However, it will only operate on a daytime basis until 9pm at night, Monday to Friday, because of a lack of staff.
"Most patients come during daytime opening hours, rather than overnight," he added.
Meanwhile, more than 60 older people a week are being added to an already lengthy waiting list for access to nursing home payments, according to information obtained by Roscommon Independent TD Denis Naughton.
"Older people are waiting over three months to access a bed under the Fair Deal scheme providing nursing home financial support," he said.
"This is forcing them to occupy beds in hospitals already struggling to cope with emergencies and planned surgeries."
People who are not in hospital and must enter the nursing home before getting a nursing home bed could potentially face a bill of "close to €15,000" before the nursing home support scheme kicks in, he added.