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‘Exceptionally high’ pressure on region’s ED

ATTENDANCES at the Emergency Department (ED) at the region’s main hospital continue to hit record levels last seen before the pandemic.
In a statement, the University of Limerick Hospitals Group (ULHG) confirmed that well in excess of 200 patients have been presenting every 24 hours at the ED in Dooradoyle. It has again asked members of the public to “consider all care options” before attending.
In the 24-hour period to 8am on Wednesday (August 18), 229 patients attended the ED. A total of 241 attended the ED in the previous 24-hour period.
“This continues a pattern of high attendances to ED around the country which has been sustained over a number of weeks and current activity levels remain far in excess of the 195 average attendances at our ED recorded in 2019, the last full year pre-pandemic,” a statement said.
The hospital has also seen an increase in the number of Covid-positive patients being treated. As of Wednesday, there were 20 Covid-positive patients in UHL, three of whom were receiving critical care.
The exceptionally high level of emergency presentations and admissions to the hospital this week means that an Escalation Plan remains in place.
While the plan includes measures like the transfer of patients to Model 2 hospitals, where appropriate, and the acceleration of discharges, a hospital spokesperson noted that patients are now presenting with more complex care needs.
The current demand from patients was described as “multi-faceted”.
“High numbers of admitted patients require a level of care that, for the Mid-West, can only be provided at UHL,” the statement said.
“We note also that the number of Covid-positive patients in UHL has increased to 20 over recent days.”
In general, patients currently admitted to UHL are sicker and with more complicated conditions, and require longer inpatient stays to recover.”
Commenting on the situation, Deputy Cathal Crowe said the pandemic seemed to have temporarily masked issues at the ED.
“People stayed away from EDs because of the pandemic and now they are going back,” Deputy Crowe said. “To some extent the EDs have been in bubble and that has masked some of the perennial problems. The issues at UHL are resurfacing and waiting times at the ED are an issue. It is devastating to be waiting on a trolley for any length of time.”
The Fianna Fáil member added the hope that recent capital announcements for Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary would help to ease the situation.
“The other positive aspect is that major gains have been made in terms of extra staffing and capacity during the pandemic and these must be retained for the future,” he said. “New nurses have been recruited, many on short-term contracts, so we must have them retained and their contracts extended.”
The ULHG spokesperson outlined the alternative treatment options available locally. “We expect that the ED will remain busy and we remind members of the public to consider all their care options before presenting to the department. Injury units in Ennis and Nenagh are open from 8am to 8pm, and St John’s is open from 8am to 7pm,” the statement said.
“Injury Units are for the treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns. More information on our Injury Units is available here. Anyone with less serious illness or conditions should contact their GPs or out-of-hours GP services.
“Members of the public with a less serious illness can contact their GPs or out-of-hours GP services. However, if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk the ED will assess and treat you as a priority.”
The hospital also apologised to patients impacted by the cancellation of outpatient and elective care and to those who have had long waits for admission to UHL.
According to figures compiled by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), there were 36 patients on trolleys at UHL on Wednesday, with five of those on wards. This represented an improvement on the situation earlier this week, when 43 were on Tuesday and 57 on Monday (21 of whom were on wards).
Meanwhile, on Monday last, public health specialists in this region, expressed concern about the rising number of Covid-19 cases in congregated, social and workplace settings. Health officials said the Mid-West is experiencing the highest increases of Covid-19 cases since February.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had recorded 998 Covid cases in the region over the previous fortnight. A third of them were recorded since Friday.
“Over the past two weeks, there have been 624 cases in Limerick, 188 in Clare, and 186 in North Tipperary,” a HSE statement said.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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