The HSE was criticised yesterday for trying to send frail elderly people occupying hospital beds to short-stay nursing home places far from their homes.
Health sources complained that some 15 short-term nursing home beds in Mount Carmel in the south of Dublin city were vacant, even though they could have been occupied by elderly patients who have refused to leave Beaumont Hospital in the north of the capital despite no longer needing acute care.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: "There is a severe shortage of step-down beds in north Dublin for patients due for discharge from hospitals. This can't be solved by offering these patients places in Mount Carmel, right across the other side of the county and miles away from their families.
"If the HSE is serious about trying to get patients awaiting discharge from northside hospitals into short-stay facilities, they need to locate them in places that are accessible. It's great to see Mount Carmel reopened and providing short-stay and transitional care beds, but it's not the answer to the discharges problem in north Dublin."
Health Minister Leo Varadkar rejected accusations that the health service was scapegoating older patients and said the HSE would not take the same approach as the NHS in Britain where the transfer of patients is much more strict.
He said it was hoped that more short-term nursing home beds would become available in the north of the city.
The HSE is only now seeking private contractors to provide 150 to 200 long-stay and short-stay beds on the northside. While in opposition, Fine Gael castigated the Fianna Fáil-led government for failing to have enough nursing home beds in north of the city.