Senator Robbie Gallagher says that over 90,000 bed days have been lost in the hospital system in the first half of this year because of delayed discharges.
Senator Gallagher was speaking after the figures were provided by the HSE to the Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher. In total, 91,197 bed days were lost in the hospital system so far this year.
Patients are classified as delayed discharges when they no longer need to be cared for in an acute hospital setting but have no access to appropriate step down care.
“We know that there are far too few step down beds in the health system and that home supports remain inadequate. This has been acknowledged now for a number of years but very little seems to have been done about it. To lose over 90,000 bed days when there are over 86,000 people waiting for treatment is unacceptable.
From a resource and patient care point of view, these lost bed days are unjustifiable. Clearly the level of support being provided to mainly older patients is not good enough,” said Senator Gallagher.
“On average more than 15,000 bed days were lost every month in hospitals across the country, varying from 13,105 in February to 16,699 in April.
“The situation where hundreds of patients are lying on trolleys in Emergency Departments or in wards is directly related to the number of bed days lost in the system. If a fraction of these lost days were put back into use every day through better supports for older people upon discharge, the number of people lying on trolleys could be radically reduced,” he said.
“Furthermore, the HSE can’t tell us exactly how long people are being delayed because the length of stay is not recorded even though you would think that such information would be recorded as a matter of course. How can we measure the cost to the system without this information?” he asked.
“Hospital care is expensive and certainly more expensive than the cost of providing decent, quality home care packages or care in a step-down care facility. This problem will continue unless real resources are put in to tackle it. The recent census is telling us that demographic changes and the increase of older people as a percentage of the population will ensure that real action and investment in home care and step down packages are essential,” he concluded.