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Anger as Clare patients set for longer ‘elective surgery’ waits

PUBLIC patients in Clare look set to face even longer waiting times following another series of elective cancellations, which has prompted stinging criticism from Deputy Violet Anne-Wynne, writes Dan Danaher.

The number of patients on public in-patient waiting lists in the Mid-West has increased from 4,798 in January 2020 to 6,569 in May 2021.

There has also been a worrying rise in the number of outpatients waiting to be treated, which is up from 47,134 in January 2020 to 50,363 in May 2021.

In a hard-hitting statement issued to The Clare Champion, Deputy Wynne, claimed University Hospital Limerick (UHL)has been the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland every day this year.
“It has had the highest overall number of patients waiting for care without beds in each consecutive year since 2017. Despite additional recruitment and over 100 extra beds, it still faces runaway overcrowding.

“University Hospital Limerick has been accommodating the highest number of people on trolleys for many months in a row now, and nothing has been done to offset the increasing pressure the hospital has come under.

“It’s a ticking timebomb. Growing waiting lists; consultants claiming that the Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) is not fit for purpose; consistently high trolley numbers and the continuously rising presentations to Emergency Department (ED) for years all paint a concerning picture.

“UHL evidently is not resourced to meet the health needs of the half a million people it is expected to serve.

“The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation have criticised hospital boards of management for not pre-empting these overcrowding issues and putting vulnerable populations at even more risk.
“Covid-19 transmission is aggravated by over-crowding – this is not new information, and more should have been done in health care settings to mitigate against this risk.

“Adding insult to injury, Ul Hospitals’ Group have said to avoid going to Emergency Department (ED) at all costs and exhaust all local health care options first, which when you live in West Clare and your local Shannondoc services have been curtailed and your A&E Department in Ennis General Hospital has also been closed, leaves you between a rock and a hard place.”

However, a UL Hospitals’ Group spokesman pointed out UHL has not been the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland every day this year.

“Patients don’t wait for care; they wait for a bed unfortunately. There was a letter from a group of NCHDs which ignored the reality that the AMAU in UHL has not functioned as an AMAU since March 2020 and has instead functioned as a medical ED for stable non-Covid medical patients streamed at ED triage.

“The hospital board is advisory only. The INMO can and do criticise the management all the time but not sure what the expectation of the board is.

“The group has not said to avoid going to ED at all costs. We have said it is essential you come to ED if you are seriously injured or seriously ill. We have said if you can be appropriately treated elsewhere, you should try there first,” he stated.

The group cancelled elective activity and out-patients clinics at UHL from Wednesday July 29 to Friday, July 30, due to overcrowding.

The number of Covid-19 patients in UHL increased from three on Monday, July 19 to 12 on July 28.

A few weeks ago, the attendance for Monday alone was 33% higher than an equivalent weekday attendance figure from two years ago. Daily presentations at the department in excess of 240 have been the norm in recent weeks.

“Managing this continuing and steadily rising influx of emergency presentations and admissions is, to say the least, a challenge for our healthcare workers, not just in terms of numbers, but also in the context of the social distancing and other infection prevention and control measures that have been in place in our hospitals throughout the pandemic.

In relation to the additional 98 beds opened at UHL, he said this bed stock has been assigned for the creation of safe care zones for the sickest patients in need of the most time-critical care, and who would be at the highest risk of infection from the virus.

Some of the bed stock has also been assigned to suspect Covid-19 patients who are very ill and often require non-invasive ventilation at ward level.

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