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HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly has admitted he is concerned about the “significant risk” to patients attending the ED in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) which was identified in a recent report.

Donnelly’s concern over ‘risk to patients’ in UHL’s ED

Ennis College Further Education

HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly has admitted he is concerned about the “significant risk” to patients attending the ED in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) which was identified in a recent report.

After welcoming the recent Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report following the unannounced inspection of the Emergency Department (ED) in Limerick in March, Minister Donnelly said he was concerned about some its main findings.

He was responding to a Dáil question tabled by Limerick Sinn Féin Deputy Maurice Quinlivan, who asked the minister what steps are being taken to address the issues raised in the HIQA report following its unannounced inspection of the ED in UHL.

Eleven local hospital consultants recently called for immediate action to bring an “intolerable situation for patients and staff to an end” at University Hospital Limerick.

The consultants have asked UL Hospitals’ Group chief executive officer, Colette Cowan to work with them to correct immediate problems so that this current “intolerable situation for patients and staff” is ended.

In a hard-hitting letter obtained by the Clare Champion, the consultants expressed their deep concern in relation to patient safety in the hospital and the “inordinate pressure” that junior doctors are being put under at the present time to maintain acceptable clinical standards in the hospital.

The consultants’ letter comes hot on the heels of a decision by the Oireachtas Health Committee to request the UL Hospitals’ Group to a meeting to discuss chronic overcrowding at UHL following a damming HIQA inspection and claims the ED “poses a danger to patients”.

An unannounced HIQA inspection on March 15 found the “overcrowded and understaffed emergency department posed a significant risk to the provision of safe, quality, person-centred care and to the health and welfare of people receiving care in the department”.

The independent watchdog warned in its damming report the dignity, privacy and confidentiality of patients attending and receiving care in the emergency department was compromised.

It stated the demand for services exceeding supply and ineffective patient flow and decreased inpatient bed capacity significantly contributed to overcrowding.

Minister Donnelly outlined a compliance plan has been developed by the UL Hospitals’ Group containing short-, medium- and long-term actions to bring about compliance with the relevant HIQa standards.

The minister recently met with senior officials from the HSE recently to discuss the issues in UHL and the immediate responses required to tackle the pressures currently being faced by all 29 EDs across the country.

He was updated on the progress of the UHL Expert Team review and the response to the HIQA report.

The HSE informed him the Performance Management Improvement Unit (PMIU) has been mandated under its Performance Accountability Framework to lead the immediate engagement with the UL Hospitals’ Group and the Mid-West CHO to ensure that the issues identified are addressed as a matter of urgency.

“I have since requested the HSE to urgently commence the implementation of short-term measures to deal with the current challenges in UHL ED. Senior PMIU management were on-site again recently, supporting local hospital management.

“The hospital has said that short- and medium-term actions include the redeployment of nursing staff with experience to the ED; reviewing nurse staff levels within the ED; making more effective use of the capacity available in St. John’s, Ennis, Nenagh and Croom to support UHL; developing an over-75s assessment area in the ED; and re-establishing the Acute Medical Unit and Surgical Assessment Unit pathways.”

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