Family relief after missing hospital patient (70) found
Hospitals have been warned to put safety procedures in place to ensure patients suffering from confusion or dementia do not wander out of the grounds and into danger.
The HSE was responding after a distraught family of a 70-year-old patient at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin was found in a nearby car park after going missing for nearly a day.
A major search was launched for Alexander "Alex" Ryan, who went missing around lunchtime on Wednesday.
Temperatures plummeted that night and Dublin experienced heavy rain for much of the day.
The nightmare for his relieved family ended after he was found in a Tesco car park across the road from the hospital around 9.30am yesterday when the alert was raised by a member of the public who saw him and got in touch.
His daughter Alison, from Ringsend, said: "Thank God he has been found." She added: "He seems OK and he is being checked over in the hospital now.
"The family expressed their gratitude to the hundreds of people who took part in the searches.
"It's such a relief, thanks to everyone who helped, thank God he has been found."
Mr Ryan, who has suffered from heart failure, had been a patient in St Vincent's Hospital since the previous Thursday and was receiving care and treatment for a number of medical conditions, including difficulties breathing.
His family explained how he can suffer confusion and also has problems with his memory.
A spokeswoman for St Vincent's did not respond to questions from the Irish Independent to outline the safety precautions which are in place to prevent at risk patients from wandering.
Earlier, she said: "In order to protect patient privacy, the hospital doesn't comment on patients or their outcomes to third parties."
The HSE said there was no national policy in place or guidelines for hospitals.
However, each hospital was expected to have protocols to protect the safety of patients in place, said a spokeswoman.
Patients with dementia can be particularly at risk in an acute hospital and studies show that they are vulnerable to adverse events such as falls, delirium and loss of function when there is an increased length of stay.
Contributory factors can include inadequate assessment and treatment of the patient, low staff levels and inadequate training. There are 55,000 people in Ireland living with dementia and 11 more people a day develop the condition.
The numbers are expected to double over the next 20 years.