1,000 empty nursing home beds not part of HSE winter strategy

Nursing home organisation says average cost of private nursing home bed is €1,000 per week - with an overnight hospital stay costing around €900 per night.

Updated 11:30

There are more than 1,000 beds lying empty in Irish nursing homes as the health service faces into another winter of hospital overcrowding.

The latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation show nearly 500 people were waiting on trolleys in hospitals around the country yesterday.

NHI Communications & Research Executive, Michael McGlynn told Newstalk the average cost of a private and voluntary nursing home bed is on average around $1,000 per week - with HSE nursing homes costing around €1,500 per week.

He said an overnight stay in an acute hospital costs the state around €900 per night.

The NHI is calling for funding to ensure the beds are used and allow “suitable patients, awaiting discharge and requiring services such as respite, rehabilitation and convalescent care” to be treated within the community and removed from acute hospital settings.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) CEO, Tadhg Daly said the unused beds could take the pressure off hospital Emergency Departments - but the HSE has failed to include them within the planning process.

He said the government needs to engage with nursing homes and “plan appropriately” for the upcoming winter season:

Mr Daly said the group is looking for the Minister for Health, Simon Harris to appoint a representative from Nursing Homes Ireland to the government's Emergency Department task force. 

He said the representative could ensure that there are strict protocols in place around the “early discharge of many older people who are unnecessarily in the acute hospital, who should be out in nursing homes across the country.”

Mr Daly also expressed his “disappointment” that Minister Harris will not be attending today’s NHI annual conference in Citywest.

The Minister cited “government business” as the reason for his absence and the Department of Health will not be sending a representative to speak at the conference.

Mr Daly said the government’s failure to attend the conference is “reflective of a disrespectful approach” towards 430 private and voluntary Irish nursing homes he called, “intrinsic for healthcare delivery.”

“Back in July, the Department of Health and Minister Harris's office committed to engage with NHI ‘in a timely manner’ as part of its winter planning process,” he said.

“We are now in November, winter is upon us and there is no sign of the engagement committed to."

He said the 1,000 free beds are “the equivalent of creating capacity of four good-sized hospitals.”

On a consistent basis, two-thirds of the hundreds in our hospitals, classified as delayed discharges are awaiting long-term nursing care,” he said.

“Nursing homes have the capacity and expertise to provide convalescent, rehabilitative and respite care removed from hospitals and in our communities.”