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A Mid-West Hospital campcign member addressing the attendance at their protest in May. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Campaigners feel vindicated by HIQA’s UHL report

ESB Apprentice Moneypoint

THE publication of a strongly critical report of the Emergency Department in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has prompted a range of emotions for a local hospital campaigner.

Marie McMahon from Ennistymon has been actively campaigning for the restoration of 24-hour casualty cover in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals for years.

Her husband, Tommy died on a hospital trolley in April 2018 after spending about 36 hours waiting to get a bed.

In an interview with the Clare Champion, those sad memories lingered for Marie, but she was happy that the HIQA report had vindicated the long, hard fight by the Mid-West Hospital Campaign for decent health provision for the people in the region.

“The HIQA Report has validated all the things we have been saying that have been missed. Finally a body with some authority has stated in a report what those in authorities have been denying.

“Everyone was putting their own spin on things. This report shows we have not been exaggerating. The state of the hospital is there in black and white.

“It is galling to hear Clare politicians Martin Conway and Cathal Crowe advocating for an elective hospital in Limerick. What good is that to people in Clare who need an emergency care service in the county?

“It will take well over an hour to transport a patient from Kilrush to UHL when the ambulance arrives regardless of whether there is no waiting less.

“Your best chance of survival is to get to an ED within the ‘golden hour’.

“Is my life worth less? Why is an elective hospital more important than an emergency department? Why aren’t we asking for both? Why does the elective hospital have to be in Limerick?

“People are dying as a result of overcrowding and some politicians can’t bring themselves to comment on it. All politicians in Meath are supporting Navan Hospital. We don’t have that here in Clare. Why? We all deserve a proper health service. There shouldn’t be a different service for different counties.”

She called for short, medium and long term planning to deal with chronic overcrowding and for Clare politicians to make the UL Hospitals’ Group accountable.

“Who is in charge? Politicians are accountable to us and they need to be doing their job.

“If Department of Health officials are dealing with UHL, then it is up to our politicians to deal with it.

“Ennis and Nenagh were downgraded in 2009. Politicians and health officials were warned what would happen but it was ignored.

“During that time we have watched the people of this region be treated with contempt, denied a decent health service, treated without dignity, compassion or respect or even considered good enough to be listened to.”

Deputy Cathal Crowe said there should be a return of 24-hour casualty cover in Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals as the reconfiguration hasn’t worked.

He pointed out an elective-only hospital would help alleviate the lack of bed capacity when patients leave the ED and look for a bed on hospital wards.

He also called for the introduction of integrated patient information system between hospitals, as this is resulting in considerable delays during triage.

Senator Martin Conway recalled the government has provided significant capital investment upgrading UHL in recent years including allocating €40 million for a new ED, and the 60-bed modular building, while funding is set aside for the new 96-bed block.

Asked about the group’s statement that it is short about 200 in-patient beds, he said the onus is on the group to outline where any new buildings to address this deficit could be located on its Dooradoyle campus.

“We need to know where these 200 beds will be located. What is the business plan?

Senator Conway said he isn’t happy the government has excluded the Mid-West as a possible location for a public elective hospital and wants to know the reasons for this decision.

“I am disappointed they are looking at building an elective hospital in Dublin, Cork and Galway without looking for one in Mid-West where the most acute difficulties are in the ED.”

The Fine Gael Senator welcomed news about plans for a new 150-bed private elective hospital in Limerick as some of these new beds could be accessed for public patients under the National Purchase Treatment Fund.

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