'Bed blockers' cost us €500k every night
Taxpayers are picking up a tab of more than €500,000 a night because patients who are medically well enough cannot be discharged home from hospital.
At the moment there are 685 patients occupying acute hospital beds around the country who are finished their hospital stay but cannot go home because of the lack of community care facilities.
The cost of keeping them in hospital each night would provide almost 26,000 hours of home care, according to Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI).
Michael Harty, chairman of the organisation, says the HSE's own figures "estimate the cost of a hospital stay per night at €800-€900".
This, he says, gives a conservative total cost of "at least €540,000 each night the 685 patients remain in hospital."
It is also "the equivalent of over 25,700 hours of home care", he stresses.
Mr Harty points out that almost 90pc of these patients are over 65 and are people for whom no alternative arrangements have been put in place because of a lack of community care facilities.
He says the main reasons for the delay include people waiting for approval under the Fair Deal nursing home scheme, those waiting for home help or a home care package and those waiting for access to rehabilitation.
"The most recent delayed discharge figures demonstrate once again the cost of the Government's refusal to provide a sustainable, joined up approach to elderly care," he said.
The HCCI chairman says the Government should incentivise hospitals by paying them per procedure instead of per patient.
"This would encourage the hospitals to free up beds and maybe put in place some kind of care package for the person going home which would be much less expensive than keeping them in the hospital."
Mr Harty says the budget for care of the elderly runs to €1.4bn a year and €1bn of this is ringfenced for the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.
"We would be saying the budget should not be ring-fenced for one type of care over another. Let's open it up for some of these funds to be used in the community." Lots of people, he insists, would prefer to be cared for at home rather than in a nursing home.