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On the day of inspection, overcrowding, poor patient flow and limited inpatient bed capacity all contributed to the ineffective functioning of the department — and indeed the rest of the hospital, which was equally impacted by this situation.

‘Urgent action’ required to tackle UHL overcrowding

THE standard of public health care in the Mid-West was brought into focus again last week, as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reported 126 patients being treated on trolleys on a single day at University Hospital Limerick.

It claimed that this was the largest number seen at any Irish hospital since the INMO began keeping track in 2006.

In a statement it said that the Limerick figure was more than 28% of the total number of patients on trolleys across the country.

The INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations, Mary Fogarty said, “The fact that we are seeing a record number of patients on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick on April 21 means that the bed management system is completely broken.”

She claimed that the situation was taking a toll on staff.

“INMO members in University Hospital Limerick are reporting significant work-related stress due to the persistent overcrowding and inability of provide appropriate care to all admitted patients. They are exhausted and burnt out. As well as trying to deal with a completely unsafe environment they also are dealing with public dissatisfaction and impatience with the situation in the hospital. They also have serious concerns for the safety of patients and have advised management repeatedly of same.”

She called on senior HSE management and Minister Stephen Donnelly to urgently act on what she called a chaotic situation for the people of the Mid-West.

“This complete mismanagement is unacceptable and is having real consequences on the health outcomes of patients who find themselves without a bed in an extremely busy hospital while an airborne virus is still extremely prevalent.”

Ms Fogarty said that private hospitals needed to be engaged by the HSE to address the waiting times for elective surgery in the area and that St John’s Hospital in the Limerick City required an urgent expansion to provide a high level of surgery in the Mid-West.

“The situation in UHL has been allowed to fester for far too long. We need to see real, meaningful short, medium, and long-term action. Patients, nurses, midwives, and the wider hospital community deserve so much better,” she said.

From this Tuesday, April 26 to Thursday, April 28, the hospital had 113, 111 and 95 people respectively on trolleys, a far greater number than at any other Irish hospital.

Clare TD Michael McNamara said that the Mid-West has been left behind and there is no sign of change.

“In the short term, new beds were announced in Cork and Dublin already this year, in 2022, and none for Limerick. That’s unbelievable in the context of the figures, you had nearly twice as many people on trolleys in Limerick as in nearly all of the Dublin hospitals combined.”

“Obviously beds are needed and needed quickly and it’s time to get an independent review of what’s going on because those that are there are firefighting.

“Someone needs to take an overview of the UL hospital group and what can be done to maximise the capacity in the short term, the medium term and the long term.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Donna McGettigan said the situation was “truly scandalous”, while she said it is the result of failed policy.

“The government is clearly to blame as they have ignored the concerns of the staff and campaigners for years and failed to act in any meaningful way to address this crisis.

“These are incredible numbers when you consider the research report by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in Britain, which noted that there is, on average, one excess death for every 67 patients forced to linger in an emergency department for 8 to 12 hours.

“It is an absolute disgrace that the situation has been allowed to get this bad, and another mess Fine Gael have caused after their 11 years in government.

“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Health have washed their hands of this crisis and failed to take any meaningful actions to deal with the trolley crisis at UHL.

“Patients are being packed into this hospital like sardines, and nurses and doctors are being forced to treat sick patients on corridors and work in a very dangerously overcrowded environment.

“A number of staff have work-related stress and it is impossible for them to deliver the proper care people deserve in this overcrowded situation.

“We need urgent action to reduce the huge levels of overcrowding in our hospital, to ensure the safety of patients and staff.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.