Elderly couple to be reunited in nursing home after separation sparks outrage
An elderly couple separated for the first time in their 63-year marriage after one of them was refused a place in a nursing home are to be reunited after their heartbreak sparked outrage.
A backlash at the decision by health chiefs to keep Michael Devereaux, 90, from Wexford, and his wife Kathleen, 85, apart went all the way to the Taoiseach.
Leo Varadkar said it was "inhumane" and promised an investigation to find out how many more elderly couples have been put through the same ordeal.
The couple had applied for accommodation in a nursing home under the Fair Deal Scheme.
Mr Devereaux was accepted into a home in Wexford and taken in since early April.
But despite a letter from her GP saying she needed long-term care as well, his wife was refused a place.
She faced living on her own for the first time after having spent the last few months in hospital.
Their plight only came to light after they both went on RTE Radio's Liveline afternoon phone-in show, separately calling in from the nursing home and hospital.
In an emotional interview, Mr Devereaux said: "I can't sleep at night and wake at four o'clock in the morning and I pray and then I cry.
"We've been separated for the first time in our lives after 63 years of marriage."
Mr Devereaux added "that we just love each other".
Questioned about the couple's devastation by Opposition leaders, Mr Varadkar said he was "personally very upset" on hearing about it.
The decision to refuse Mrs Devereaux a place in the home with her husband was overturned on Tuesday after an intervention by the Government.
Speaking again on Liveline, the couple's son Tom Devereaux confirmed they are to be reunited within days.
"I assume two or three days, but the main thing is they'll be reunited," he said.
"My mother is very down today after yesterday, but this has lifted her spirits."
Mr Varadkar said the decision by the Health Service Executive (HSE) was wrong.
"It was inhumane and lacked common sense," he said.
"The Government does not stand over it, and we now need to examine why the decision was made in the first place, whether there are other cases - and you have to surmise there are other cases - and what we need to do to make sure the needs of very elderly couples are assessed together as they should be and are not separated in this way."
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the couple's children had been "fighting the system" for months to get them in to the same home, but were repeatedly turned down.
It was not good enough that they needed to take their case to the national airwaves before a compassionate decision was made, he added.
In a statement, the HSE said its social care division only "became aware of the circumstances" of the couple through the radio coverage.
It said it ordered a review of Mrs Devereaux's care needs and "the totality of her circumstances".
"In the meantime, arrangements are being made, through the HSE's transitional care service, to facilitate Mrs Devereaux's transfer today to her husband's nursing home," a spokeswoman added.
A spokesman for Health Minister Simon Harris said he was pleased the situation has now been addressed "with compassion and recognition for the family's circumstances" and he looked forward to seeing Michael and Kathleen reunited.