THE surgical team in Ennis Hospital turned up for work on Wednesday to discover without warning day surgery was cancelled two days after overcrowding reached a new record of 130 patients on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
That was the disputed claim made by Deputy Michael McNamara who has also revealed he stopped the transfer of his relative to UHL for medical treatment because she was afraid to go there and was treated elsewhere.
However, the UL Hospitals’ Group has stated the decision to postpone elective surgeries in Ennis on Wednesday was communicated to all the Ennis-based theatre staff yesterday evening.
The group acknowledged regrettably, the decision was not communicated to one member of the surgical team, who attended, and this matter is being rectified.
A number of elective surgeries at Ennis Hospital and other UL Hospitals’ Group sites were postponed today on Wednesday as the group continued to manage a significant level of demand for emergency care as widely reported over recent days.
In line with the Group’s Escalation Framework, all elective lists at Ennis with the exception of Endoscopy were postponed. In addition, there were some elective curtailments at St John’s Hospital and activity is also reduced at UHL with the exception of cancer and emergency theatre lists.
In light of the continued high demand for emergency care, scheduled activity across all sites is being continuously reviewed in line with the group’s Escalation Framework. All patients impacted by cancellations were contacted directly by hospital staff.
The group apologised to patients who are impacted by cancellation of a surgical appointment, especially those who have already been waiting for a long time. It will endeavour to re-schedule all cancelled appointments at the earliest possible opportunity.
As teams work to manage attendances for unscheduled care at the Emergency Department in UHL—which totalled 233 on Tuesday, following 229 on Monday and 225 on Sunday teams are working hard to ensure patient flow within and across our hospitals, and it is hoped that the group will be able to restore its scheduled care services to full capacity as soon as possible.
Marie McMahon, Ennistymon, whose husband, Tommy Wynne, died in 2018 after he spent 36 hours on a trolley in a corridor of UHL, has claimed that people are afraid to go into UHL.
The Mid-West Hospital Campaign representative has been campaigning for the re-opening of 24-hour casualty cover in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals.
The number of patients on trolleys fell from 130 on Monday to 108 on Tuesday and 82 on Wednesday.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy McNamara raised the “mess that is UHL”.
While no patients arrived for day surgery in Ennis on Wednesday, Deputy McNamara said it appears no one told the surgical team, anesthestist and nurses who were all waiting for patients.
“This seems to be a bad use of scarce resources. It is not unique. We know that during the pandemic Ennis had a lot more cancellation of services than Nenagh, UHL or St John’s. Figures I got in 2022 show Ennis is less utilised.”
Deputy McNamara asked the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if he would visit Ennis to see the solutions it offers by increasing the services provided by the Local Injuries Unit, the capacity of the Medical Assessment Unit, the capacity of the day surgery and to increase the overall utilisation of Ennis Hospital.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he didn’t know why surgery was cancelled and why the surgical team were not informed as usually they are the first to know.
“Part of the solution to the problems being experienced by UHL is greater use of Ennis and Nenagh. That is happening to an extent but not to the extent I would like to see. I look forward to visiting Ennis Hospital again as soon as I can.”
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday night, Deputy McNamara said news that people were afraid to go into UHL wasn’t news to him as this was something his family, neighbours and friends have lived for quite some time.
“A very close elderly relative of mine who is in a nursing home had a fall and an ambulance was called to bring her to Limerick.
“I stopped it and was told I could not do that, to which I said that I would stop it and would stand in the way, sign whatever I had to sign and go to whatever court I had to go to in order to explain the situation.
“My relative was very thankful. She was afraid to be brought to hospital. She was very happy in the excellent HSE-run facility she was in. She did not want to go to hospital and I did not want her to go there. She was brought elsewhere and I still stand over that decision.
“My wife and I have a young son who is not seriously ill, but requires hospitalisation on occasion. We have decided that if he needs urgent hospitalisation, once we hit Birdhill we will take our chances and will not go to Limerick but rather in the opposite direction.
“Lives will be lost because people are afraid to go to hospital in Limerick. Lives are being lost due to the fact people do not go to hospital in Limerick because it is unfit for purpose. I hate people who say, “Shame on you”, but it is an indictment of this Government.
Deputy Violet Anne-Wynne stated in the Dáil recently a tax cut is no good to people when they live as far away as Loop Head and suffer a heart attack.
“They can only hope they will stay alive long enough for the ambulance to reach them. A wealth fund is little consolation to a cancer patient who has spent an entire weekend on a trolley in a corridor in the most overcrowded hospital in the country in Limerick.”
The UL Hospitals’ Group stated University Hospital Limerick was exceptionally busy on Monday, with 225 patients having presented to the Emergency Department on Sunday—significantly higher than our standard weekend attendance levels—and a high number of inpatients.
The number of admitted patients on trolleys on corridors in ED at 8am on Monday morning, was 39, with all other admitted patients in the department 25 either in designated bed spaces in single rooms and cubicles.
There were a total of 87 admitted patients waiting outside of designated bed areas across the hospital at 8am this Monday, including 24 patients boarded in the hospital’s Acute Medical Assessment Unit, and 34 patients on trolleys in inpatient wards, in line with our Escalation Framework.
The level of overcrowding is far in excess of where the gropu want to be, and it apologises to all patients who faces a long wait time for an inpatient bed
The group are following our Escalation Framework to maximise patient flow and create additional capacity to manage the consistently high levels of activity in the hospital. Staff are focused on ensuring that emergency care is first received by the sickest patients.
Ongoing measures include opening surge capacity across all sites; transferring patients on trolleys to our inpatient wards; additional ward rounds by medical teams to expedite discharges or identify patients suitable for transfer to Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals; and working closely with our colleagues in HSE Mid West Community Healthcare in order to expedite discharges.
The group warned anyone attending ED who doesn’t have a life-threatening or severe illness or injury will face a significant wait.