An elderly woman with dementia has been medically fit for discharge from a busy hospital since April but remains there because her family has failed to pursue nursing home care under the Fair Deal scheme, the HSE has told the High Court.
The woman, who is in her 80s and a widow with no children, is believed to have substantial assets.
The High Court has ordered she be transferred to a nursing home pending an application to have her made a ward of court, which would then allow an application to be made to fund a nursing home place through the Fair Deal scheme.
The President of the High Court said it seemed there are assets of some substance, including the woman's home and cash assets, that could pay for the nursing home care but there was no co-operation from family members.
The court heard the weekly nursing home cost is €880, the weekly cost of a hospital bed is €1,615 and the hospital has between 35-40 people on trolleys on a daily basis awaiting beds, he noted.
The hospital is prepared to fund the nursing home care in the interim on the basis it will ultimately be refunded those monies from her assets, solicitor for the HSE Catherine Kelleher said.
Ms Kelleher said the woman was admitted to the hospital last February having been referred by her GP due to concerns for her welfare.
She was considered medically fit for discharge last April and the hospital engaged with her extended family in relation to wardship and a Fair Deal application for nursing home care.
The substantial assets of the woman and her late husband could be accessed to fund nursing home care, Ms Kelleher said.
While a niece of the woman had initially indicated wardship would be applied for, that was not pursued and it also appeared none of the wider family would get involved.
The woman is still in the hospital which is trying to deal with a "huge crisis" concerning availability of beds with 35-40 people on trolleys, Ms Kelleher said.
It is not desirable that she be charged for a hospital bed that she has no need for and she needs to be in a "much more appropriate environment", she said.
The HSE has obtained two capacity assessments, which indicate the woman lacks capacity and meets the criteria for wardship, but they have to be put in sworn form, the court heard.
A fair deal assessment had also been organised by the HSE and an appropriate nursing home had been found.
The hospital is prepared to pay upfront for the nursing home care on the basis it will be refunded from the woman's estate in wardship, she added.
Mr Justice Kelly directed that an independent medical visitor should also assess the woman's capacity and report to the court.
He also made orders for the woman's transfer to the nursing home, pending further order, and appointed a guardian ad litem to represent her.
The matter will return to the court when the medical visitor's report is provided.