National MP Dr Shane Reti is calling on the government to explain why it's allowing DHBs to discharge elderly people from hospital in the middle of the night.
In January alone, he said, 156 patients aged 80 years and older were discharged from hospitals between 1am and 8am. Every DHB discharged at least one elderly person during that month, with Waitematā leading the way with "an outstanding" 23. Four were discharged in Northland.
All but three of those discharged were non-Māori. None of the four in Northland were Māori.
Dr Reti said the practice was unacceptable.
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"While there may be some people who are self-discharging to other facilities, there is nothing safe about discharging people over 80 in the very early morning," he said.
"Transitions of care between hospital and the community are often complex and fraught with danger, but especially so for older people, where we know confusion can be increased at night, especially if social networks aren't active and they are in an unfamiliar environment.
"It's clear there are some management issues surrounding discharge delays and bed planning, with some people bumped out to free-up beds."
The figures did not include the number of elderly patients who presented at an emergency department between 1am and 8am and were "sent away," so even more people might have been impacted.
"I was made aware of a situation in my electorate where a family was horrified that their kuia, who went to ED at 1am, was sent home a couple of hours later to a community that was not prepared," Dr Reti added.
"Our elderly community deserves better support and care than this. I can't think of one good reason to be discharging a person over 80 from hospital in the early morning.
"The government needs to urgently explain the circumstances around these figures, and reassure our elderly community that they won't be left out in the cold in the middle of the night to free-up a bed for someone else."