BANTRY General Hospital lost 629 bed days in six months due to the lack of ‘step-down’ beds for patients, new figures show.
The loss of bed days, in the first half of this year, was described as ‘truly shocking’ and ‘scandalous’ by Fianna Fáil TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.
‘It should send a clear signal to Government TDs and senators in this constituency that its current health plan is simply not working,’ she said this week.
‘The issue of holding onto beds too long has been a problem for years, but has now reached staggeringly high levels and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,’ she added.
Deputy Murphy O’Mahony said the country’s health system is seriously lacking when it comes to step-down care facilities.
The figures also revealed that 4,653 bed days were lost due to ‘delayed discharges’ at Cork University Hospital, with 1,740 lost at the Mercy University Hospital and 336 lost at the South Infirmary/Victoria University Hospital, all in Cork city.
A patient is classified as a ‘delayed discharge’ when they no longer need to be cared for in an acute hospital setting, but have no access to appropriate step-down care.
‘The provision of step-down beds would greatly relieve the pressure on the acute hospital system,’ said the Bandon-based deputy.
‘However this, and the previous Fine Gael government, have failed to move on this issue. One of the proposals that Fianna Fáil put forward was the possible expansion of the use of district hospitals. Along with the provision of step-down services and beds, they could also be used in the treatment of relatively minor conditions, thereby preventing the need for admission into an acute hospital,’ she said.
‘If a fraction of these lost days was put back into use through better supports for older people, the number of people lying on trolleys could be reduced,’ she added.
Responding to the figures, a spokesperson for the HSE said: ‘Acute and community services throughout the country are working jointly to prioritise the available resources.’
Meanwhile, newly appointed Junior Minister Jim Daly has found himself embroiled in his first major controversy since moving to the Department of Health.
A war of words has broken out between the Clonakilty Fine Gael Minister and the Psychiatric Nurses Association, after the deputy described unions as a hindrance to achieving change in the health services.
The PNA hit back and said the Cork South West TD would need to look closer to home for ‘the real lack of progress in the reform of our mental health services.’
Minister Daly, who has responsibility for mental health and older people, was unavailalbe for comment, but a spokesman said the Minister stood over his comments.
‘They were merely stating factually that having to negotiate proposed changes in the heath sector with trade unions, and receive their approval to the changes, is a major barrier to progress,’ the spokesperson said in a statement to The Southern Star.
A PNA spokesman said that large parts of the government’s strategy for mental health services remained underfunded and unimplemented, despite union support.
He said: ‘Minister Daly might want to consider the reasons for the abysmal lack of progress by the HSE and the Department of Health in the implementation of the Vision for Change strategy for the mental health services. The PNA has been pushing for the full implementation of this strategy since it was published by the government with a huge fanfare 11 years ago. Unfortunately, large parts remain underfunded and unimplemented, despite support for it from the trade union movement.’