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Elective surgery and outpatients appointments at University Hospitall Limerick will be deferred from next Tuesday, January 4 due to Covid-19 related staff absences.

Nursing Union Requests “Plan B” To Reduce Projected Overcrowding Hike

A nursing union has called for the curtailment of elective treatments in University Hospital Limerick to reduce the expected spike in overcrowding in the Emergency Department over the coming weeks.


The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has called on the HSE to publish and implement a Plan B for dealing with the capacity crisis that is escalating within the public acute hospital system.

The INMO has requested all activity except urgent emergency care to be curtailed in the public hospital system.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha expressed concern about the high numbers of patients presenting to Emergency Departments across the country.

“From experience we know that if there are 287 patients for whom there is no bed in a hospital on December 30th, we know that figure will be tripled in early January. It is time now to scale back all activity within our public hospital system to emergency activity only.

“Our public health service is too small to try provide emergency care, Covid-19 care and carry out elective treatments. Urgent elective work must be prioritised through the private hospital system.

“Every year between Christmas and New Year we see a spike in attendance at our Emergency Departments but now in the context of Covid-19, particularly with the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it is wholly irresponsible that we still do not have a Plan B in place for our scaling up capacity within the acute hospital system.

“We need private hospitals on the pitch so the health service can act as one at this extremely difficult time.

“The INMO have asked the HSE for a winter plan since mid-July, we are not satisfied there is a realistic plan in place. Every hospital is being asked to deal with issues as they arrive, rather than rely on long-term planning.

“We know that there are high levels of staff absences due to Covid-19 related leave, anecdotally we are being told that many hospitals are having problems completing rotas. Our creaking health service is currently being held together by the goodwill of nurses and midwives who are cancelling annual leave and staying beyond their rostered time to ensure that wards are staffed.

“The HSE has a duty as an employer and as a service provider to take the necessary steps to scale up capacity. The current state of our health system is extremely concerning. The INMO has called for the HSE to have a realistic plan. We cannot allow a drift into this dangerous situation emerging across the country” she stated.

The UL Hospitals’ Group has consistently outlined its efforts to tackle chronic overcrowding, which has caused difficulties for patients on trolleys in recent months.


Since the beginning of December average daily attendances at the ED in UHL have reached 216, exceeding 240 on three of the first seven days of the month. This compares to 195 presentations per day during 2019.

The group continue to follow its Escalation Plan, which includes use of surge capacity, undertaking additional ward rounds, accelerating discharges and identifying patients for transfer to our Model 2 hospitals. However, many patients currently admitted to UHL are sicker and with more complicated conditions, and require longer inpatient stays to recover.

UL Hospitals’ Group chief executive officer, Colette Cowan revealed the September HSE employment report outlined the number of staff employed across the group has increased by 563 whole time equivalents to 4,983 whole time equivalents over a 12-month period. This includes an additional 252 WTE nursing and midwifery staff.

She stated it is unfortunate that the additional bed capacity has not had a more significant impact in reducing the number of admitted patients waiting for a bed.

“The pandemic and the sustained surge in non-Covid-19 care presenting to hospitals around the country in recent months are significant unforeseen factors in explaining this.”

This year UHL has provided more inpatient care than ever before. The number of inpatients discharged in the second quarter of this year, at 9,451, was 25% up on the corresponding period in 2020 and 30% up on the same period in 2018.



Dan Danaher

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