MORE than 93,000 'bed days' were lost in hospitals in the first four months of this year because hundreds of patients were unable to leave, new figures reveal.
The problem is due to 'delayed discharges' -- or patients known as 'bed-blockers', who no longer need hospital level care but are still dependent.
They are supposed to be transferred to a nursing home or discharged back to their own homes where they would need support.
The problem is measured by counting each day that a bed is unavailable for a new patient because its previous occupant is staying too long in hospital.
It means that while thousands of patients are on waiting lists to get into hospital, hundreds of others who should be able to leave are in limbo.
There are currently over 700 patients categorised as 'delayed discharges' in hospitals around the country. This is a decrease on the 774 patients in this predicament in February.
Figures show that 12,646 bed days were lost in the first three months in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, 12,871 in St James's and 10,461 in the Mater.
Health Minister Dr James Reilly was highly critical of the blockages while in Opposition and in 2010 he tabled a Dail motion in which he pointed out that 272,000 bed days had been lost in 2009.
However, if the same figures for the first three months of 2012 are replicated for the remainder of 2012, the number of bed days lost this year will exceed 281,000.