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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly pictured breaking ground for the new 96 bed block at University Hospital Limerick, watched by UHL CEO Prof Colette Cowan. Picture: Don Moloney

Health Minister: ‘Mistakes were made’ over A&E in Mid-West

HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly has admitted “mistakes” were made implementing the controversial removal of 24-hour Accident and Emergency services in Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals in April 2009.

Speaking in the Dáil, Minister Donnelly acknowledged “sufficient capacity” was not provided for when changes were made to emergency departments in the Mid-West, which was now being addressed with more beds and health workforce.

“UHL is under significant pressure. I turned the sod recently on an additional 96 beds. There are two more plans that will provide a further 200 beds. We are also putting in a surgical hub. There is an awful lot of investment going in.

“We will be investing in Nenagh, Ennis and further in St. John’s Hospital and other hospitals. This is the way to do it.”

He said changes were being introduced in the new consultant contract to have more senior decision-makers rostered in the evenings and at weekends for patient assessment, treatment, admission and discharge.

Addressing the Taoiseach in the Dáil, Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne said thousands marched in Limerick to oppose Fianna Fail’s “disgraceful decision” to strip Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s of Emergency Departments, which successive governments have not reinstated.

“We have all read and heard the horror stories Taoiseach, and they are all true. This hospital is stretched far beyond capacity and its staff are stretched beyond breaking point.

“It is the only Emergency Department to serve 473,269 people. The Mid-West has a disproportionately ageing and disadvantaged population against the rest of the Republic; and it is the only area where there is one stand-alone Model Four Hospital with no Model three to support it.

“Under your last two governments, people have died on the road in Loop Head and Liscannor waiting for an ambulance to reach them in time.

“Taoiseach, you are a trained doctor. You can’t surely look me in the eye and tell me that this is acceptable.

“The case has never been stronger to reinstate Emergency Department services at Ennis Hospital so will your Government please see sense on this issue and confirm to the House today that you will put a taskforce in place to address this question?” she asked.

Commenting on the open letter signed by 87 medics in UHL, Senator Timmy Dooley requested the minister to set aside planning rules and laws to provide 200 more beds in the addition to the 96 under construction in UHL and another 50 in Ennis Hospital where day surgery has been cancelled for five weeks to deal with overcrowding.

He warned staff retention and recruitment will continue to be a problem due to the difficult working environment, which requires urgent attention and proposed the first surgical hub should be provided in UHL.

“The situation in emergency departments in recent months nationally has been very difficult. When we speak of it, we must take a moment to think of the people who are on trolleys: those who are very sick, and their anguish and suffering, and the worry and concern of their loved ones, especially as we come towards the end of the pandemic where there is still an element of fear.

“We must take a moment to tell people we are thinking about them, and we want to make it better,” he said.

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