Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Older People, Mary Butler TD, has said the situation in relation to overcrowding in our acute hospitals is at crisis point. Deputy Butler welcomed the initiative shown by University Hospital Waterford (UHW) in block booking 30 beds in Care Choice nursing home Dungarvan to provide step-down facilities to patients.

Deputy Butler, who has long been calling for the provision of step-down facilities said this is a cost-effective way of dealing with delayed discharges and would alleviate the massive pressure on the acute hospital network which is heavily overcrowded at present.

Deputy Butler explained “There was a 46% increase in the number of people waiting on trolleys at UHW in 2019 according to the INMO. They counted 6319 patients waiting for a bed during the year – the highest number every recorded at UHW and a jump of 1994 since 2018.

“As of November 2019, 682 patients nationally found themselves in a situation where they were classed as late transfer of care which broadly corelates with the number of people waiting on trolleys – it just does not make sense to have people eligible for discharge in an acute hospital setting, who simply cannot be discharged.

“I have discussed this issue with the General Manager at UHW who believes this initiative will greatly free up acute beds at the hospital. Many patients suffered late transfer of care due to lack of respite, rehab and home care supports, and this welcome change will improve patient flow through the hospital.

“The community hospital in Dungarvan is also at full capacity and this community-based approach is something which has been underpinned by the Sláinte Care plan and it is the way forward. I commend UHW for showing great initiative in taking this step.

“In this instance the 30 beds are block booked for three months, and while this will take pressure off the hospital during the flu season, this can’t only be a temporary measure. I had warned the Minister repeatedly that patients at UHW were facing a Winter of discontent due to overcrowding and Government inaction to date has re-affirmed my position.

“Step down facilities and the correct wraparound service has to be an ongoing practice and cannot be for just 3 months of the year,” concluded Deputy Butler.