Now working families blamed as bed-blocker figures soar

Working families are being blamed by health officials as one of the reasons for a rise in ‘bed blockers’ in public hospitals.

While more people are working during the economic recovery, fewer are available to act as carers in the home.

This is causing a problem for bed blocking – mostly by elderly patients who no longer need hospital care but cannot be discharged without some support.

The latest figures reveal the number of these patients occupying beds – who are known as delayed discharges – has risen from 481 last January to 613 in September.

The problem of working families not being free to care for patients was highlighted at a recent meeting of the emergency department oversight taskforce, the Irish Independent has learned.

However, the issue will rankle with many working families who were promised that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would provide for those who “get up early in the morning”.

The lack of options on homecare and step-down facilities has long dogged the HSE when it comes to freeing up hospitals beds.

It has also emerged that there are growing difficulties in filling jobs for carers in private commercial companies which are contracted by the HSE to provide homecare.

Patients who are occupying scarce beds can be waiting for a homecare package, nursing home place or home adaptation.

Ed Murphy, of the Home Instead company, which is contracted by the HSE, said that there is a problem recruiting carers because the HSE is not prepared to give them genuine shifts.

The HSE has made the jobs so unattractive for them that many are going to work in places like supermarkets, he added.

There are more jobs for them to choose from.

“When I call it unattractive it means that instead of looking after 1,000 people in their home they are saying use the budget for 2,000 people.

“Instead of going in for an hour a day they are only paying for half-an-hour.

“That is the kind of way the HSE is making the shifts so short.

“It is impacting enormously,” he said.

However, he said that a person could be looked after in their home, with a few hours of care each week, for just €350.

“If someone is in a hospital bed it is costing €1,000 a day and therefore €7,000 a week,” he said.

“There is zero excuse for them to be left in a hospital bed,” he added.

It comes as the HSE implements its “winter plan” in a bid to tackle the trolley crisis and free up as many beds as possible with extra homecare and community supports.

However, Ian Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Ireland hospital group, has questioned why the health service should still be discussing “winter planning” when overcrowding is a problem all of the year.

“Short-term reactive planning to specific periods of the year cannot continue to be the solution,” he said.

He also asked if the health service should be discussing ‘winter planning’ when the “problem manifests itself throughout the year”.

Last week the Taoiseach was accused of passing the buck on the winter trolley crisis by calling on the HSE not to sanction holidays for staff over the busy Christmas period.

Mr Varadkar faced a wall of criticism from all political parties for his remarks on Tuesday about the causes of over-crowding, queues and the reliance on trolleys at hospital emergency departments.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that it was time the hospitals operated “at full whack” over the upcoming Christmas holiday period.

Fianna Fáil later launched a blistering attack on the Taoiseach over his Christmas health service comments.

It claimed that he was acting like “a radio chat show panellist”.

Party leader Micheál Martin said that the Taoiseach had insulted the frontline hospital staff.

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