Fianna Fáil Deputy for Roscommon-Galway, Eugene Murphy, has called for free space in State-run nursing homes to be used to alleviate pressure on emergency departments.
Deputy Murphy highlighted the fact that capacity levels in State-run nursing homes have dropped by 18 per cent in the past six years. Emergency department overcrowding levels have hovered consistently around 400, and at the beginning of February the figure hit 601.
“Why is it that our national health providers are no longer shocked at these figures? Something has clearly gone wrong, and a focus on patient care has been lost when the Minister and the Government discuss overcrowding,” Deputy Murphy said.
“The simple fact is that there is not enough capacity in the acute hospital network to deal with the volume of cases coming via emergency departments. What is also evident is that there are those in our acute hospitals who could be better cared for in step-down community facilities or in nursing homes.”
Deputy Murphy said he has been contacted by very concerned operators of private nursing homes in the Galway area who have a considerable amount of spare beds, and yet Portiuncula Hospital and University College Hospital are still referring people to community-based nursing homes and overcrowding continues to be an issue at these hospitals.
“I believe private nursing homes can help alleviate that pressure as they have spare bed capacity which is not being used,” said Deputy Murphy. “Nursing Homes Ireland believe that at the start of 2016 there were 742 beds available in 172 nursing homes around the country. In addition, the HSE has confirmed that there has been an 18 per cent drop in the number of State-owned nursing home bases between 2010 and 2016.
“Not enough patients are being discharged into the right community or nursing home setting to relieve the chronic pressure facing our emergency departments. Until this is realised and additional capacity is brought on stream, we will continue to see overcrowding in our emergency departments.
“The Government has an opportunity as part of the midterm review of the Capital Plan Capital Review to commit to investing in our health system and urgent action must be taken to help alleviate the pressure on overcrowded emergency departments which are already bursting at the seams.”