There were over 207,000 lost bed days in HSE hospitals last year due to delayed discharges, data released under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed.
Delayed discharge occurs when a patient is medically fit to leave but remains in hospital due to a lack of step-down care.
Last year 7,102 patients were unable to be discharged despite no longer needing hospital care.
The average discharge was delayed by 29 days and 207,096 acute bed days were lost as a result.
“These are patients who have been clinically discharged but they’re waiting to get into the appropriate place for them,” Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association said.
“It could be a nursing home or maybe [they] require families to make arrangements to be able to look after their loved one at home.
“So, the net effect of that is that the bed isn’t available for someone to move into.”
Almost 25,000 bed days were lost in St James's Hospital in Dublin last year and outside the capital city, the highest was in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda - at just under 16,000.
Professor Bill Tormey, a consultant in Beaumont Hospital, said there is a clear solution to the problem.
“The obvious thing to do at the moment is to buy hotels that are already built and transform them with the minimum amount of transformation into hospital step down arrangements,” he said.
In a statement to Newstalk the HSE said:
“Patients who require community supports or a place in an alternative setting such as rehabilitation, long stay, or transitional care, are identified as early as possible in order to make necessary arrangements and avoid any unnecessary delays.
“Transitional care funding is in place to enable patients to be discharged from hospital into nursing homes for a period of convalescence care before returning home, or while awaiting supports to go home or to long term residential care.”
Main image: Woman recovering in a hospital room bed.