IT COSTS more than €900 a day to keep a patient in a hospital bed in two Cork hospitals, The Echo can reveal.
The average daily cost is almost the same as the average weekly cost of keeping a patient in a nursing home or community bed.
Information obtained through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act revealed that, in Cork University Hospital (CUH), daily bed costs go as high as €930 in the Inpatient Department.
In the Mercy meanwhile, the average costs reach €917, according to information obtained again through FOI.
The average weekly cost of keeping a patient in a private nursing home in Cork comes to around €960; more than €1,400 in the public ones.
In fact, weekly nursing home costs in Cork can go as low as €860 (private) and €911 (public).
The figures clearly illustrate that the HSE and hospitals could save much needed money by simply investing in the community care settings, according to CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, Tadhg Daly.
“Nursing homes and the community setting has a critical role to play in a functioning health service,” he said.
“The economics speak for themselves as highlighted by the figures.
“What’s often forgotten is the human impact,” he added.
“There’s a huge human cost as well as an economic one.
“Investment in community care is the way forward.
“These figures highlight sharply the need to get people out into the community setting.
“It makes sense on all fronts, from an economic and human point of view.”
In CUH, the cost of day case patient beds is around €675 per day; €252 for the Emergency Department; and €142 for beds in the outpatients department.
“In hospitals nationally, it is believed that around 60% of people termed delayed discharges are awaiting nursing home care,” said Mr Daly.
“That means that for example, for every 100 patients that are delayed discharges in the likes of CUH and other hospitals, around 60 of them are awaiting nursing care.
“It would make sense financially to have the beds in place to ensure they can be discharged,” he added.
“It also means that they are in the right place to receive the level of care they need and it frees up a much needed bed within the hospital system which in turn stops people waiting for hours at a time in A&E.
“The hospital setting can have a negative impact on both patients and their families, depending on the situation while community nursing homes promote a high level of social as well as medical care.
“When a person’s acute needs are met in the hospital, there is nothing more that hospital care can do for them.
“The investment needs to be in place in the community to ensure the health service is not spending vast amounts of money on hospital beds that are no longer beneficial to the patient, but are needed for other cases coming into hospital.”
Mr Daly pointed out that while the HSE has to foot the bill in public hospitals, the health service only has to pay portions of community care costs at times.
“Schemes like the Fair Deal schemes are systems of co-payment so the HSE wouldn’t be paying the full cost of that, only a portion,” he explained.
“We would be somewhat encouraged when we think of Slaintecare and what is being said.
“But that often isn’t followed through on in terms of practice.”
A spokesperson for the HSE said that the cost of care in acute hospitals is greater than nursing homes because of the acuity of the patients admitted to hospital.
They explained further that this cost per day covers medical, nursing, allied health professional and diagnostics among other clinically necessary supports required to support patients through the period of acute illness.
“All HSE community services (Community Health Organisations - CHOs) including services for older people, primary care and mental health work with colleagues in the acute hospital system liaising daily and escalating measures as required and ensure that patient flow in and out of hospital is as efficient and as it can be,” a spokesperson said.
“Once a person’s acute period of hospital care is completed, patients who are clinically discharged and who require nursing home care, are discharged to their nursing home of choice as soon as is possible.”
The spokesperson said delays in discharging patients from acute hospitals do occur.
This is “because some patients present with clinical complexity above which can be provided in a nursing home, where the patient requires additional support to maintain their safety in the community.”
“We are aware of a small number of patients who have delayed transfers of care from an acute hospital to the community because of the clinical complexity of their care needs.
“Other factors include complexities with completing the application for Fair Deal if there are particular legal or consent requirements.”