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Expert team commences scrutiny of UHL ED operations

HEALTH specialists from the HSE’s Performance Management Team have started a review of the management of the Emergency Department in UHL.

Responding to questions from Senator Martin Conway at a Health Committee meeting this week, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said these specialists would be working with the clinical and management team to address issues at the hospital.

Senator Conway asked Mr Reid what was his view on the need for an independent review of overcrowding in UHL, which has been requested by the staff and nursing unions.

Mr Reid said the issues affecting the ED in UHL were different than Galway and didn’t support the call for an independent review as he felt their specialist team had the expertise to look at patient flow and other factors that are impacting on the hospital.

National HSE acute operations director, Liam Woods said while the situation at UHL is not unique, he acknowledged attendance growth is one of the highest nationally compared with 2019, particularly among patients who were 75 and older.

Mr Woods said there are active responses concerning overcrowding already, in addition to an initial meeting between people from his unit with clinical and managerial representatives last Friday.

Health specialists are working on an approach to deal with patient flow issues in the hospital and measures that can be taken beyond the acute facility to help discharge.
This will include dialogue with staff in Limerick.

Asked when he would expect overcrowding to drop, Mr Woods said he expected to develop a plan with the UL Hospitals Group to come up with measures within two or three weeks.

Chief Operations Officer, Anne O’Connor said patients were waiting on trolleys on average for about nine hours in UHL, which is about 30 minutes longer than the national average

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara has called on the Government to publish the terms of reference for an expert team that is being deployed by the HSE to review the issues surrounding chronic overcrowding at UHL.

Addressing Taoiseach Micheál Martin during questions on promised legislation in Dáil Éireann on Wednesday, Deputy McNamara also raised the potential for the greater utilisation of Model 2 hospitals, such as Ennis, St John’s and Nenagh, to help alleviate pressure on UHL.

“When will this expert team report, to whom will they report, will their report be published, what are their terms of reference?” asked Deputy McNamara.

“Will it include looking at whether some of the Model 2 hospitals in the region require to be upgraded to deal with the population of the Mid-West, because we need a long-term solution as well as a short-term solution to the particular problems of overcrowding in UHL.”

While confirming he would provide a written response to Deputy McNamara’s questions around the expert team’s reporting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said, “Despite all of the negativity around health services the bottom line is that we have moved from being 16th in the European Union league table in terms of lifespan and life expectancy to number one.

“Now, that’s due to a whole range of public health measures, but also investments in health, in cardiology, oncology, stroke and so on. But we have real issues in terms of emergency admission.”

He continued, “The problem is the recruitment of senior clinicians tends to be towards the tertiary hospitals and all the Royal Colleges of anaesthesia to whatever talk of the need for high-volume activity located in the tertiary hospital, and we have had this debate for 25 years.”

The Taoiseach concluded by stating that the expert team’s report would “have an immediate impact in terms of systems and flow through the hospitals”.

The issue of overcrowding at UHL was also raised by Senator Conway who told HSE chief executive Paul Reid it continues to be the worst in the country.

Senator Conway asked Mr Reid if the expert team appointed by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has visited the hospital and what is their initial feedback.

Mr Reid said there is an extremely strong committed management team in UHL who have to manage population density challenges in the region.

“We do employ teams to go into emergency departments to look at process flow,” he said.

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