NEARLY half of patients who should be discharged from hospital to a nursing home are caught up in a lack of funding or bureaucracy in the Fair Deal scheme.
A breakdown of the 705 "bed blockers" - who no longer need to be in hospital but could be transferred to a nursing home, rehab bed or their own house with a home care package - is revealed in a HSE report.
It shows the extent of their plight, with 513, or 73pc, of them awaiting some kind of long-term care such as a nursing home.
More than 200 of these are waiting for their applications to be processed or for the funding to become available. These account for about one-third of all delayed discharges.
There were 40 hospital patients passed for funding for a nursing home, but unable to leave because the money has not been released, while another 179 were at different stages of the means-testing process.
Meanwhile, 193 were yet to submit an application to the scheme. Just seven are listed as not co-operating with efforts to transfer them.
There are large numbers of delayed discharges in both St James's Hospital - where 99 of 101 "bed blockers" are awaiting long-term nursing care - and Beaumont, where 67 out of 83 are in a similar situation.
The report also reveals how other patients who could go back to their own homes are hampered by the HSE delay in giving financial support for a home care package or basics such as grab-rails or appliances.
Another 44 patients, many of whom are under 65, are languishing in a hospital bed waiting for rehabilitation care.
The report does not say how long patients costing €200 a day have been waiting to leave.
The insight into the circumstances of these patients, 95 of whom are under the age of 65, comes as the numbers on trolleys in emergency departments and wards across the country reached 486 yesterday.
Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said: "The figures show that 38pc of patients seeking a nursing home bed have yet to fill in application forms for Fair Deal.
"For older people who do not have family support, it is not straightforward for somebody recovering in a hospital to complete the form. Additional support should be provided."
He added: "A further 45pc are waiting for their applications to be processed or for the funding to become available.
"If further funding was available and if additional resources were provided to process applications, the delay period could be shortened."
He said while people were being labelled bed blockers, "a better description is prisoners of the State - unable to either go home, to the nursing home or rehabilitation care they need due to lack of funding".