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A view of Ennis Hospital where the Injury Unit is situated. Photograph by John Kelly.

Ennis Hospital ‘still an option’ 15 years after A&E closure


ON April 6, 2009, the A&E unit in Ennis closed, with politicians promising a new centre of excellence at what was then known as the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick.
Fifteen years and on those promises have never been fulfilled, with the A&E at UHL now regularly setting unwanted records for the worst overcrowding in the country.
Horror stories about the hospital abound and this week Clare Senator Timmy Dooley has called for an emergency to be declared, while independent TD Michael McNamara has demanded that the incoming Taoiseach take the lead on resolving the dire situation at UHL.
Mr McNamara said that he doesn’t have much faith in the Government to resolve a crisis that has been worsening throughout its time in office.
“There are possibilities, but do I see those possibilities being exploited or utilised by the Government? I don’t. I don’t want to play politics with this but the reality is that there is a problem with the health service everywhere in the country, but there’s a particular problem in the A&E at University Hospital Limerick that is over and above anywhere else in the country.
“I would have thought that the only way that can be solved is in the Taoiseach’s office. I’ve called on Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar and I’ve written to Simon Harris to ask that in the short time available one thing he can do is sort out this mess by putting a plan in place and putting its implementation in the Taoiseach’s office.”
He said that the only way it will be resolved is if the Taoiseach’s department uses its power to make the changes necessary. “The A&E crisis in Limerick won’t be sorted out unless the Taoiseach’s office takes command of the situation.
“It is the most powerful department in the country. Every other department, including the Department of Health and the Department of Finance do what the Department of the Taoiseach tell them to do.”
He says that the dire hospital situation is now “the single biggest issue in Clare”.
Senator Dooley said that an emergency response is required, with a range of measures introduced speedily. “There needs to be an emergency declared, I think. That in itself isn’t the answer, but the pathway should be cleared for an immediate construction project. We shouldn’t be waiting around for any delays in planning, if necessary there should be additional temporary bed capacity provided on the site. I think this idea of building 100 additional beds but that only increasing the complement by 50 or 60 is out the window. We do need to move away from nightingale wards for sure, but that should be a longer term goal. Any new beds now should be fully in addition to what is there.
“I also think there needs to be an independent external analysis or investigation of the culture in Limerick. There seems to be very significant funding put in, but the problem gets worse. I could understand if it was improving, but not improving quick enough, but there doesn’t seem to be improvement.”
He said that he welcomed the appointment of Sandra Broderick as Mid West regional executive officer, but said she would need additional support.
Senator Dooley said that long term steps need to be taken, along with a number of emergency measures.
“I think the opening on a 24 hour basis of the MAUs is important. I also think that additional bed capacity needs to be located in Ennis and in Nenagh. In Nenagh they have hired a facility that was due to open up as a nursing home. I think a similar approach should be taken in Ennis whether that is looking at additional capacity in the Ennis area or putting additional beds on the Ennis campus. I think there should be capacity for 50 to 100 beds built by the HSE as part of the Ennis hospital facility. There are people in Limerick Hospital who don’t need to be in a hospital of that standing, who could well be managed in a facility like Ennis. I think long term we should be upgrading Ennis to a level three, but those are longer term measures.
“Addressing the acute overcrowding at the minute needs an emergency response. When the Covid crisis hit, the Chinese built hospitals in a matter of days using modular facilities. Temporary, modular accommodation should be provided on the grounds of Limerick as an immediate emergency response. Then the bed capacity coming on will take time, it’s a different construct and takes longer. But we cannot keep going back to people saying ‘there’ll be another 100 beds in two years time’ and that’ll only be an increase of 50. And the population growth will outstrip that. We do need an emergency response.”

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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