€74m to fight overcrowding in hospitals
The Government is to spend €74m in a renewed attempt to deal with overcrowding in our hospitals.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said €44m has been allocated to provide 1,600 extra nursing home places under the Fair Deal scheme, which will free up beds in hospitals.
The other €30m will provide both temporary hospital beds until June and also extra community, convalescence and district hospital beds on a permanent basis.
This measure should reduce the number of people on trolleys in Emergency Departments.
The announcement comes following reports of large numbers of patients on trolleys this week in Beaumont Hospital.
The Herald revealed that up to seven ambulances were forced to remain at the hospital at the same time because there were no available trolleys for patients to be transferred from the ambulances' wheeled stretchers.
Age Action has welcomed the Government's decision to allocate the funding to tackle delayed discharges and overcrowding in hospital Emergency Departments.
The measures should reduce the stress created for many older people who are currently trapped in delayed discharge beds, said Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins.
He expressed concern that no additional funding was announced for supports to enable older people to be discharged home.
"HSE figures compiled in February showed that 17pc of people in delayed discharge beds were due to be discharged home, but were awaiting approval of a range of supports such as home-care packages and home adaptations," said Mr Timmins.
The extra €44m for the Nursing Home Support Scheme should reduce the waiting time for nursing home beds to four weeks, compared to the current 11 weeks.
Speaking about over-crowded Emergency Departments, he said: "We need to move away from fire-fighting measures, and recognise that some of the problems we are experiencing in hospitals are the symptoms of a health service which is not adequately meeting the needs of its ageing population," Mr Timmins said.
"If we are to manage our Emergency Departments in the coming years, we have to ensure that we meet the needs of older people at an earlier stage, before they become so frail and ill that they are admitted to their accident and emergency unit," he added.
In this context, Age Action is encouraged by the "frail elderly pathway" proposals in the Emergency Department Task Force Plan, he said.
It was time for action, he said.