CONCERN has been expressed about the lack of a definitive opening date for a new €19.5 million 60- bed block modular unit to tackle overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) after a government minister recently pledged it would be operational at this stage.
Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler stated in the Seanad recently “from a construction perspective, the new ward block should be ready to be operational by Monday, November 9”.
In fact, Minister Butler praised all those involved on their hard work and patience in seeing the much-needed additional capacity for University Hospital Limerick come to fruition.
She also thanked Senator Martin Conway for his constructive approach as she was aware he had raised this issue many times.
“The Government is committed to developing acute hospital services and infrastructure. University Hospital Limerick is an integral part of the University of Limerick hospital group, providing hospital services and care to the populations of Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary.
“The hospital provides quality patient care, delivered safely by skilled and valued staff through the best use of their available resources. This is achieved through the commitment, hard work and professionalism of all the hospital staff,” she said.
Deputy Michael McNamara said it is a bit disturbing a few weeks before the new 60-bed modular unit is supposed to be open, the UL Hospitals’ Group can’t give a definitive opening date.
In response to a recent Dáil question, UL Hospitals’ Group chief executive officer, Colette Cowan said a new 60-bed ward block project was established to provide a rapid build interim solution to begin to address the bed capacity issue at UHL in response to the National Capacity Review by the Department of Health.
“At this time we can’t provide you with an exact opening date. However, it is anticipated that the new beds will be operational before the end of the year. This is in line with the HSE National Service Plan 2020.
“Recruitment is ongoing in respect of the new capacity and we look forward to the opening of these beds before the end of the year,” she stated.
The new €19.5 million four-storey ward block will provide an extra 60 beds for the hospital, all single patient rooms with ensuites.
The additional single rooms will help to improve patient comfort, safety, privacy and dignity and assist with the management of infection control in the hospital.
Deputy McNamara said he is very concerned the group can’t commit to providing an opening date considering the level of overcrowding in UHL.
“I am calling on the UL Hospitals’ Group to clarify when the 60-bed modular unit will be open. It is unacceptable considering there was more than 50 people on trolleys earlier this week.
“I have been raising the issue of overcrowding in the Dáil since April with various ministers and officials from the HSE who assured me overcrowding in UHL was a big priority and there was nothing they weren’t going to do to alleviate it.
“We all know the risk posed by overcrowding in acute hospitals. There is an obvious urgency in the need to address overcrowding now.”
Deputy McNamara urged any very sick patient in the Mid-West who needs urgent care to seek medical attention in UHL as he is concerned that some people are putting off treatment, which is leading to delayed diagnosis of very serious medical conditions.