HSE Unable To Fund Care For Woman Stuck In Bed

An 83-year-old woman deemed medically fit for discharge back in July of this year has been stuck in a leading Dublin hospital ever since because the Health Service Executive won’t pay for a nursing home for her.

Elizabeth (Betty) Plunkett from Sandyford, Co Dublin has been in hospital for the last five months and was deemed fit for discharge but has languished on a hospital bed in St Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin because of a failure by the HSE to locate a suitable nursing home place.

Betty’s niece Mary Hanratty had identified a number of suitable homes for her costing no more than €1,100 a week but the nursing home section of the HSE have said there is no money to help the move.

The Sunday Independent has learned that the cost of keeping Betty in hospital has been €7,896 a week, or a total of €189,504 since last July.

She has been stranded in the hospital as a result of successive failures by the HSE and by the funding freeze introduced in October. Betty’s family have said that she has deteriorated so badly since being in hospital and they fear if she remains much longer, her life may be in jeopardy. She has been shunted from ward to ward and was this weekend in the St Paul’s Ward of the busy acute hospital.

As a result of being left in the hospital, her family said she now needs 24-hour care although none of it medical.

As a result of the funding freeze, the Sunday Independent now understands that there are almost 200 similar cases in the various Dublin acute hospitals, and nationally that figure is even higher.

Betty’s niece, Mary Hanratty said that the family are desperate to get her out of the hospital and into a suitable home. Every time they have been close to securing a place for her, the HSE have pulled the funding at the last minute. They said they can’t take her home as she needs specific nursing care.

Mary said: “She is in a place that is totally unsuitable for her. She needs to be in a home, where we can go to see her. She doesn’t have a big circle of friends and family so the days in the hospital are long and lonely. She needs to be in a care facility with like minded people and a proper routine.”

Mary said Betty is a woman of limited or no means and is at the mercy of the public system. “We have been sent from pillar to post by the HSE. We can’t fault the hospital staff, but this is simply the wrong place for her to be in.”

Fine Gael’s Olivia Mitchell, who has taken up the case, was scathing in her criticism of Mary Harney and the HSE this weekend. “The weekly cost of keeping her in a bed in St Vincent’s is almost €8,000. The irony of the situation is that a nursing home bed has been identified and is available, but the HSE has no money to pay for it. As a result, this 83-year-old woman, who is a constituent of mine, remains in hospital a full six months after she was pronounced medically fit for discharge.”

Mitchell has said Betty’s cases shows the glaring failures of the HSE and that it is disgraceful that a woman who doesn’t need medical care is kept there, vulnerable to such infections like MRSA.

She said: “Since last July, this lady has never been dressed or been out of doors and is hugely vulnerable to hospital infection. She has been shunted around from bed to bed in St Vincent’s and is becoming disorientated to the point where she now requires 24-hour care.”

The HSE said it had no comment on the situation as it was a St Vincent’s matter. A spokesman for St Vincent’s said it does not comment on individual cases.