Sunday 17 December 2017

Leo Varadkar's €74m fund to get elderly out of hospital

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Hundreds of mostly elderly people who are “trapped” in hospital, but cannot be discharged, are to benefit from a massive injection of Government funding for more nursing home places and home care packages.

The €74m funding top-up was announced by Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch today, as part of a new plan to tackle hospital emergency overcrowding.

Some €44m has been allocated to provide 1,600 extra nursing home places under the Fair Deal scheme while a further €30m is to provide temporary beds until June and extra community, convalescence and district hospital beds on a permanent basis.

The proposal, agreed by the taskforce set up to relieve the ongoing trolley crisis, will target around 700 so-called delayed-discharges – patients who no longer need to be in hospital but need a nursing home or home care package – to free up beds.

There were 366 patients on trolleys in emergency departments yesterday morning waiting for a bed, and another 91 on wards. Cork University Hospital was among the worst hit, with 31 on trolleys.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has given a “cautious” welcome to the proposals.

President Professor Trevor Duffy warned that this response would not be sufficient to prevent overcrowding in Emergency Departments and Hospitals; “while this initial funding is to be welcomed what we need to see now is real investment in bed capacity and chronic care management in General Practice.  The real challenge is to prevent a recurrence of the now familiar overcrowding  crisis in our hospitals and we believe that a longer term solution will require much more ambition and more investment than the announcement made today.”

Professor Duffy also reiterated the IMO view that the roots of the crisis lay in the successive cutbacks faced by the health budget through the past decade; “Today’s announcement by the Government recognises that a lot of the crisis in emergency departments is financial in nature.  Successive budget cuts have undermined the infrastructure of our hospitals and given the slightest pressure, this now manifests itself in overcrowding and chaos.

Professor Duffy repeated the IMO concern at the practice of cancelling elective surgeries as a response to pressure on emergency departments.  He said; “elective surgery is typically the cure to the problem that caused the visit to the Emergency Department in the first place.  You cancel the elective surgery and you simply ensure that the patient will potentially have to present or re-present at the Emergency Department. ”

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