A controversial memo advising nurses of their right to remove “trespassing” public patients from acute hospital beds when others are more in need has been withdrawn by the HSE.
Yesterday both Health Minister Simon Harris and Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) general secretary Liam Doran condemned the memo written by the HSE’s legal advisers and issued to its national director of acute hospitals, Liam Woods, on October 11.
The memo outlines how a patient’s right to be on a hospital premises “is merely a licence and once that has been abused, the nurse is also legally entitled to remove the person as a trespass, using minimum force to do so”.
The document says that given the country has entered flu season and there is likely to be a greater demand on acute hospital beds, the HSE’s contracted legal firms are ready and capable of assisting any hospital which may have difficulties in freeing up hospital beds “where patients are incapable or unwilling to give up those beds”.
The HSE memo says that unlike with education, there is no express right to free health services in the Constitution.
However, the advice to remove patients is understood not to extend to private patients. Mr Doran said this is because private patients represent “a stream of money” for hospitals.
He described the memo as “madness, immoral, bizarre, and unbelievable”.
He questioned the HSE “mindset” that went into drawing up several pages of legal advice on how to remove patients at a time when minds should be focused on devising practical solutions to the bed crisis.
Mr Doran said the INMO had only learned of the memo on October 25 and were told on October 27 that it had been withdrawn.
Mr Doran said the HSE had “lost its soul” and that the memo was disrespectful towards nurses.
“It’s an attitudinal thing that nurses will do what they are told. Well they won’t,” Mr Doran said on RTÉ radio.
Mr Harris tweeted that the memo was “utterly offensive and unacceptable”. He said it had been rescinded by the HSE at his request.
Last night the HSE said it was “not HSE policy to remove any patient, clinically discharged or otherwise, from a hospital bed”.
The HSE said the information in the memo “reflects the current legal position and was shared by way of information with hospital managers following a request by a third party for clarification on this matter”.
“While the memo outlines the current legal position, it has been rescinded in light of concerns raised by staff and does not reflect HSE policy,” it said in a statement.
Mr Woods told RTÉ radio that it was “a legal briefing note” but failed to explain who had commissioned it or why it had been circulated to hospital groups.
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