overcrowding | 

Nursing homes chief calls for HSE to make use of 760 empty beds to ease hospital crisis

‘Clearly there are a significant number of beds across the private and voluntary nursing home sector that are available for use as we speak’

Aoife BreslinIndependent.ie

A nursing homes chief has called on the HSE to make use of hundreds of empty beds in nursing homes around the country to ease the ongoing hospital overcrowding crisis.

The HSE has confirmed that 530 patients can’t be transferred out of hospital due to delayed transfers, while yesterday 489 patients awaited admission to a bed.

As hospitals struggle to find support beds in the private sector and elsewhere in order to free up beds in acute hospitals that can be vacated by patients who are recovering, it has emerged that around 1,000 nursing home beds lie empty around the country.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of representative group Nursing Home Ireland, said that there are a total of 760 nursing home beds available for patients to be transferred to.

“We undertook a snapshot survey just over the last number of days and across the 440 homes and of the 210 homes who responded over 70pc of those confirmed that they had beds available and ready,” he said.

“147 homes and a total of 760 beds are available, 30pc of those homes didn’t have beds available because they were already full or there may have been some staffing issues.

“Clearly there are a significant number of beds across the private and voluntary nursing home sector that are available for use as we speak.”

The HSE significantly ramped up discharged of well patients over the weekend following a call from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Mr Donnelly also said consultant doctors should work weekends to get more patients discharged and free up beds, drawing a sharp response from consultants, who said they already worked weekends.

Mr Daly met with the HSE and provided them with the information needed to begin working towards transferring eligible patients to a bed in the private and voluntary nursing home sector.

“We have met with the HSE yesterday and we provided the HSE with that full list of all of those homes who responded to our survey across the country and I understand that the HSE will now be contacting our members today through the local community healthcare organisations to expedite transfer of those in hospital who should be out in the community effectively,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“There are always beds available in the private and voluntary nursing home sector, I mean there are 31,000 beds in nursing homes, 26,000 of those in the private and voluntary and there are beds available for a variety of reasons.”

Access to vacant nursing home beds is something that Mr Daly believes should be available to hospitals on a contract basis throughout the year.

“I suppose what we saw over the last number of weeks is that discharge has slowed down around the Christmas period and I suppose a point we would make is that the local hospitals should have access to those beds right throughout the year on a contract basis.

“Discharge happens every day to nursing homes whether under fair need or under transitional care, but there needs to be a renewed focus now in my mind on contracting beds in nursing homes where there are pressure points.

“Clearly we saw last week where university hospital Waterford indicated that they got some beds off-site nursing home beds two years ago and it was a lifesaver.”

Mr Daly said that the transition from hospital to nursing home will be complex in ensuring that the nursing home can cater for all the needs of the residents, this will be done by a pre-admission assessment.

“It is complex as well, we are talking about real people here and we have to ensure that the nursing home has the ability to care for that individual and the resources whether it is financial or the community intervention teams are there to support the individual when they transfer out of an acute hospital to a nursing home,” he said.

“All nursing homes would do a pre-admission assessment, so they would assess the patient in the hospital before they come to a nursing home. Clearly the age profile, the dependency of those in nursing homes, the majority are over 85, so the complexity in nursing homes is very high.”

Currently out of the 530 patients that are awaiting transfer in hospital, 65pc of them are determined as requiring long-term care

“My understanding is that up to 65pc of that 500+ are determined as requiring long term care,” he said.

“That is why it needs to be expedited and we want to work collaboratively with the HSE and indeed with the department of health to ensure there is visibility to where those beds are available and also in terms of timely transfer, communicating with families should be important and of course communicating with the resident so that they have a choice in where they wish to stay.”

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