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Members of Clare County Council tabled an urgent motion this week aimed at putting political pressure on the issue of hospital overcrowding.

Clare people ‘are afraid to go to UHL’

CLARE people are afraid to go to University Hospital Limerick (UHL) due to chronic overcrowding and huge trolley numbers in the ED and corridors, a councillor has claimed.

Councillor Liam Grant told a HSE West Forum meeting on Tuesday that patients were dying due to overcrowding in UHL and the longer a person waits on trolley for care the higher the risk of sickness or even death.

Having visited UHL in his role as an emergency medical technician on a regular basis, Councillor Grant alleged there is a lack of dignity and respect treating patients in the hospital.

“It has gone to the stage where people are afraid to go to UHL, which is a sorry state of affairs. Staff are exhausted and demoralised.

“Elderly people are being moved on trolleys around corridors and hallways. They are scared, alone and are not being looked after properly. It is a sorry state of affairs the way we are treating elderly people we have abandoned.”

“People talk about centre of excellences in hospitals but in reality that is not what they are. Given the measures taken by the government have failed miserably to deal with overcrowding levels at UHL the public are crying to upgrade Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s to Model Three Hospitals, except those in charge.”

There were 80 patients on trolleys in UHL on Wednesday, down from 87 on Monday. Noreen Spillane said management in UHL don’t want to have overcrowding for its patients. Acknowledging the ED is very busy, Chief Director of Nursing, Noreen Spillane said there needs to be a wider discussion about this problem.

“It is not just about EDs, the provision of beds and overall capacity is an issue,” she said.

She proposed that a meeting could be held between management and a group of HSE West Forum members to discuss this issue.

Councillor Grant said he would like this meeting to include a representative of the Mid-West Hospital Campaign, which has organised protest meetings in Ennis and Limerick calling for the reopening of 24-hour casualty cover in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s

Councillor Mary Howard recalled people were promised a centre of excellence in UHL when the reconfiguration of acute hospital services removed 24-hour Accident and Emergency cover from Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s in April 2009.

“It is appalling. There were 120 odd people on trolleys in corridors blocking fire exits last week.

She said before her late, father, Michael died in 2009 he begged her not to take him into UHL.

Despite considerable investment in UHL, she said overcrowding has got worse since then.

“I don’t know what the answers are but it is very frustrating. I meet people with very sick relatives who are sitting on a trolley in a corridor. There was nothing put in place when reconfiguration happened. There was a 90 bed unit provided a few years ago, which provided beds for patients who needed them anyway.

“I don’t know will another meeting solve anything. I have been to funerals of people who died on corridors. It is heartbreaking to talk to people who have lost loved ones in UHL. It is a mess. I am tired hearing about meetings and meetings, there seems to be nothing happening.”

Acknowledging additional investment in Ennis Hospital, she asked if more treatments could be provided there to reduce the numbers attending UHL.

She recalled a recent incident where a young girl caught her finger in a door and the conversation centred around who was available to drive her to UHL because she wouldn’t be treated in Ennis.

Councillor Grant tabled a motion stating the Health Forum West recognises that the reconfiguration strategy, which centralised trauma care at UHL has failed in its objective to provide safer care to patients.

It stated the consistent overcrowding must be addressed by reversing the closure of Emergency Departments at Ennis, Nenagh and St Johns Hospital.

“The Regional Health Forum pledges its support to work to reopen Emergency Departments at Ennis, Nenagh and St. Johns  and to upgrade these hospitals to Model Three within the UL Hospitals’ Group.”

The group stated any decision about upgrading smaller hospitals isn’t a matter for them or the HSE.

Patients attending the Injury Units in Nenagh, Ennis and St John’s Hospitals benefit from the expertise and care of a consultant-led team of doctors, Registered Advanced Nurse Practitioners (RANPs), nurses, and other healthcare professionals who are highly experienced in the treatment of injuries that may not be threatening to life and limb, but which nonetheless require medical attention and treatment.

In 2021, there was a 13% increase in the total Injury Unit attendances across UL Hospitals Group compared to 2020.

In addition, the Medical Assessment Units at Nenagh, Ennis and St John’s provide diagnosis and treatment for patients referred with medical conditions including chest infections, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), pneumonia, urinary tract infections, fainting episodes, clots in the leg, anaemia, or non-acute cardiac problems.

Through additional staffing resources and targeted initiatives such as the NTPF, both Ennis and Nenagh MAUs have expanded their services over the past two years, making more assessment slots available for GPs in the Mid-West.

In 2021, the group opened a new Outpatients Department at Ennis Hospital, an off-site location on the Kilrush Road. The new OPD in Ennis has 15 clinical rooms, in addition to a phlebotomy bay, four waiting areas, offices and staff changing rooms. The new department will allow for the relocation of services such as cardiac rehabilitation, radiology and general X-Ray.

A new €2m purpose-built Injury Unit was opened in Ennis in April 2021, replacing the existing unit that had operated out of the main hospital building since 2013. The new facility boasts five separate patient assessment bays, with the highest standards in Infection Prevention and Control (IP&C) compliance along with separate waiting and triage areas and other dedicated workspace that has made for an immediate improvement in the clinical environment for our staff and enhancement of the care experience for patients who use the Injury Unit.

The group pointed out it has the lowest in-patient bed capacity per population when compared to other Model Four Hospitals and stated an extra 200 beds are needed to bring it in line with the national average.

CEO Prof Colette Cowan recently commissioned Deloitte to conduct an external review of patient flow at UHL looking at the use of resources, processes in place and identifying any constraints.
Once the review is complete, the findings will be circulated to external stakeholders.

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