Nursing home delays fuelling hospital chaos
Nearly 80pc of so-called bed blockers in hospitals are patients waiting to go into nursing homes.
Elderly people are now waiting as long as three months to get access to state funding they need to access nursing home care, it has emerged.
Under the Fair Deal scheme, residents have their fees paid by the HSE, but they also contribute 80pc of their assessable income towards the cost of their care.
Nursing Homes Ireland chief executive Tadgh Daly said "substantial cuts to the Fair Deal budget are having an increasingly negative impact on healthcare delivery within our health services".
He said this was manifesting itself in the increase in the numbers of people on hospital trolleys and overcrowding in hospital wards.
Mr Daly said the HSE is reporting an upward trend in the number of delayed discharges, and he added that the "significant majority" are awaiting the specialist care of nursing homes.
"At the same time, the waiting period for Fair Deal financial support has significantly increased from a month at the beginning of the year to three months at the end of June," he said.
"This is incredulous for older people who have been assessed as requiring the continuous, specialist care provided within a nursing home."
A recent survey published by the organisation highlighted "extraordinary delays" in receiving the Fair Deal financial support, which is leading to extended, unnecessary stays in acute hospitals, according to Mr Daly.
The latest figures on the numbers waiting - which were published at the end of June - showed 1,465 people who were approved for the scheme were awaiting its financial support.
The estimated average cost of care in a private and voluntary nursing home is €890 per week, but the average resident contributes €280 towards this figure under the Fair Deal scheme, so the entire tab is not met by the HSE.
At the end of May 671 patients were judged clinically ready for discharge, according to an HSE report.
A spokesperson said the waiting time for people receiving funding approval under the Nursing Home Support Scheme is currently 12 weeks, up from seven in April.
"In June 2014 the scheme had funded 22,162 long-term public and private residential places," the spokesperson said, pointing out that the scheme continues to take on new clients "within the limits of the resources available".
They said "the duration of the placement list fluctuates over time".