Upper Bann MLA and Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson has expressed her anger after it was revealed 3,478 bed days were lost last year in the Craigavon Area Hospital due to a backlog of discharging patients who were deemed suitable to leave.
“When people attend our hospitals they should expect safe and timely treatment,” said Mrs Dobson.
“Equally, in the cases where they have been admitted and received care, it is reasonable to expect them to be allowed to leave hospital once they have been assessed as medically fit to do so.
“Given the risk of some hospital-related infections, and the obvious financial cost of an average hospital stay hitting £400 per day, it should make absolute sense to allow patients to leave as soon as it is appropriate and safe to do so.
“It is widely accepted that the best place for a patient to recover after an illness or procedure is often in their own home or another form of what is termed ‘step-down’ facility.
“Unfortunately however this information, which only came to light after an Ulster Unionist Assembly Question to the Health Minister, demonstrates that the far too many people are being kept in hospital after they have been told they would be discharged.”
A Southern Trust spokesperson responded to Mrs Dobson’s concerns, saying: “The Southern Trust has the shortest average length of hospital stay of any Trust in Northern Ireland and our staff work very hard to ensure that patients do not stay in hospital longer than necessary.
“We have a number of systems in place (e.g. twice daily patient flow meetings, an escalation system etc.) to keep any delays to a minimum.
“Our priority is to ensure that all patients are discharged safely which does mean that some patients may need to stay a bit longer than expected to ensure that the full support they need is available at home or in the community.
“Waiting on appropriate transport, equipment or pharmacy items may cause delays to discharges.
“Putting in place arrangements for community support or nursing home admission can also delay patient discharges.”