Home » Breaking News » Mid-West will get none of 447 acute or ICU beds to open this year
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.

Mid-West will get none of 447 acute or ICU beds to open this year

NO new acute, sub-acute or ICU beds will be opened in the Mid-West this year, according to HSE figures released to Independent Clare Deputy Michael McNamara.

In response to Deputy McNamara’s Parliamentary Question, the HSE’s Acute Operations department confirmed none of the six hospitals in the UL Hospitals’ Group will receive any of the 411 acute and 36 ICU beds scheduled to be opened this year subject to staffing and completion of some capital works.

“The provision of additional bed capacity on its own will not resolve the overcrowding problems at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), but the delivery of new acute, sub-acute and ICU beds should certainly be part of the solution,” stated Deputy McNamara, who described the exclusion of all six hospitals in Clare, Limerick, and north Tipperary as “disgraceful”.

“UHL is the most consistently overcrowded hospital in the country having recorded 76,000 attendances in 2021, up 16% compared to 2020 and up 7% on 2019, and with 91 people on trolleys awaiting a bed there today,” said Deputy McNamara.

“It is unbelievable therefore why the HSE has no plans to open any new beds this year at UHL, or at Ennis, Nenagh, Croom Orthopaedic, St John’s and the Maternity hospitals.”

Deputy McNamara says a full review of operations within the UL Hospitals’ Group is required if lasting solutions to the overcrowding issues are to be identified and implemented.

He said a serious examination is needed to establish why the group is not receiving any of the hundreds of new acute and ICU beds scheduled to be opened nationwide this year.

A spokeswoman for the national HSE said the UL Hospitals’ Group would comment directly.

The group noted that the allocation of funding for capital development projects is decided by HSE nationally, and not by the group. While additional beds are welcome, the group has consistently stated that even sizeable ward block developments of the kind opened at University Hospital Limerick in the past two years would only begin to address the long-standing, well-documented hospital bed shortfall in the Mid-West.

“This is not to minimise the importance of additional beds. We are grateful for the new beds opened on our sites during 2020 and 2021, which have enabled us to keep vulnerable patients safe, including haematology, oncology and renal patients; to provide a safe pathway for people attending UHL for surgery; to effectively isolate Covid-positive patients; and to ensure essential services remain open.

“However, the pandemic and the sustained surge in non-Covid care presenting to UHL in record-breaking numbers for several months now make it clear that additional capacity is urgently needed along with additional community based care options for patients. A proposed new 96-bed block on the UHL site has received planning permission and has been submitted to the HSE Board for approval.

“The most significant impacts of limitations of capacity are upon waiting lists for scheduled activity, and we would urge public representatives and indeed all stakeholders in healthcare in the Mid-West to come together in an effort to ensure the development of an elective-only hospital for this region.

“This will help to ensure a level of public hospital care that the people of the Midwest deserve into the future, with an equal focus on efficient delivery of elective and emergency care.

“UL Hospitals Group management met the Minister for Health on February 17, and made the case for the core requirement for an elective hospital in the Midwest, and expressed concern about this region not being included in national plans for elective sites, now agreed for Galway and Cork.

“As it stands, the significant and increasing pressure arising from an 80% rate of emergency care admissions will continue to hamper our ability to provide scheduled care, adding to delays being experienced by our patients,” he outlined.

Meanwhile, the Mid Western Hospital Campaign, has submitted a motion to the Regional Health Forum West asking that “the consistent overcrowding be addressed by reversing the closure of Emergency Departments at Ennis, Nenagh and St Johns Hospital”.

Spokesperson for the Campaign in Clare, Noeleen Moran said the motion is an important one given the high levels of overcrowding that currently exist in Limerick Hospital.

“In 2009 a decision was made by government to downgrade Ennis, Nenagh and St Johns hospitals and to close the emergency departments in these hospitals. A new centre of excellence was promised at University Hospital Limerick but what we got instead was the country’s most consistently overcrowded emergency department.

“A hospital which is understaffed and where healthcare workers are under immense pressure from the beginning to the end of their working day.

“A hospital in which patients are not getting the care they deserve and even more seriously where their lives are being put at risk. It has come to the stage where people in need of care are avoiding the hospital. None of this is acceptable. Nenagh, Ennis and St Johns emergency departments should never have been closed,” she said.

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