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Number of long-term patients at Mater Dei, Karin Grech doubles

183 beds are taken up by those with nowhere else to go

The problem of patients occupying hospital beds for a long period of time is a long-standing one. Photo: Darrin Zammit LupiThe problem of patients occupying hospital beds for a long period of time is a long-standing one. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The number of patients receiving indefinite care at Mater Dei and Karin Grech hospitals has more than doubled in a year, and 183 beds are taken up by those with nowhere else to go, the Times of Malta has learnt.

The Health Ministry confirmed that the number had spiked over the past few years, rising from 48 in 2014 to over 100 in the last two years. According to a ministry spokeswoman, there are 113 such cases at Karin Grech and another 70 at Mater Dei.

Sources who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity said the figure reported by Eurostat recently was grossly misrepresenting the prevailing situation. The EU statistics office said the number of patients taking up hospital beds for months on end had dropped drastically in recent years, standing at 48 in 2014.

According to the sources, some of the patients making use of these beds had nowhere else to go when discharged from hospital. Such patients were usually elderly people who were too frail to live alone and had nobody to care for them once they were released from hospital, the sources said.

A number of patients were waiting to be admitted to Karin Grech for rehabilitation.

We’re not talking about a few beds here and there but the equivalent of a number of wards

Wards at Mater Dei could hold up to 25 patients, the sources noted, which meant that the equivalent of at least three wards were being taken up by so-called ‘long-term patients’. The hospital has a total of just over 1,000 beds.

“We’re not talking about a few beds here and there but the equivalent of a number of wards,” the sources said, adding that another group of patients with terminal cancer were also occupying beds for stretches of time.

These patients, usually numbering between 30 and 50, were not flagged as taking up beds for long-term care but would still be too sick to be discharged, the sources pointed out

“These patients spend stretches of time at the hospital, because they are too ill to be discharged and the hospital does not have a hospice service,” the sources said.

The issue of patients with nowhere to go once discharged from Mater Dei has for years plagued the hospital, with medical staff often complaining about the negative impact it has on the general running of hospitals.

The Health Ministry spokeswoman said last week that the drop reported in 2014 was a result of measures that included the launching of various outreach services that helped the elderly patients remain in the community and reduce readmissions to hospital, as well as other initiatives such as partnerships with the private sector.

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