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Deputy Michael McNamara.

Proposals for expanded services at Tier 2 hospitals, including Ennis General

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THE HSE has confirmed it is considering proposals to expand the level of services delivered from Tier 2 hospitals including Ennis General. This comes as the combination of overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick and the Covid-19 pandemic has been described as “a catastrophe waiting to happen” by chair of the special Oireachtas Covid-19 committee Deputy Michael McNamara.
Liam Woods, HSE national director of acute operations appeared before the committee where Deputy McNamara asked about the potential for increasing services at Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s in Limerick.
Deputy McNamara outlined that, “Limerick consistently has the highest numbers of people on trolleys”.
Mr Woods acknowledged that there has “been a demand and supply mismatch”, and that a number of developments have been directed at growing and improving capacity.
He continued, “Hospital beds are not the solution in isolation in the health environment. In fact, excess focus on hospital beds as against community investment will lead to an ineffective situation. From our point of view, we must also focus on investing in community services around Limerick. The community intervention team that is working opposite the hospital there and out into the community is very successful. Supporting that and expanding community initiatives would be very useful. There are initiatives under way in Limerick and across the wider region out into Clare and in Nenagh relating to cataracts that are helping to support the health of the population without bringing patients into Limerick at all, and investing in more of that type of work in our model 2 hospitals in Ennis and Nenagh would be very useful. There are some outreach clinics running in primary care centres from Limerick and we need more of that to support GPs and to bring specialist consultant advice to GPs at local level without having to refer patients to the hospital base.”
Deputy McNamara pointed out that the previous Minister for Health accepted that there was a necessity for more outpatient procedures to be carried out in the model 2 hospitals.
He asked if there are plans to increase the capacity of the model 2 hospital in Ennis, St John’s and Nenagh in the context of, “Limerick being the most consistently overcrowded hospital in the State. If we are going to continue to channel the vast majority of patients from the mid-west region into the most overcrowded hospital during the Covid-19 crisis, that is a catastrophe waiting to happen and the clock is ticking.”
Responding, Mr Woods commented, “The answer is “Yes” to the Chair’s question. We are considering specific proposals from the UL Group as part of our approach in the coming months and to the winter period. That approach will include things like the integrated care programme for projects to support older populations who stay at home and out of hospital. That is about investment in staff, including geriatricians, working cross-hospital and in the community. Other proposals involve surgical assessment and radiology. These are due to be considered in the next few weeks as part of our response to winter. There are proposals, therefore, to make more use of Nenagh and Ennis hospitals, and to support Dooradoyle and St John’s.”

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