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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is shortly set to take over as Taoiseach.

Varadkar challenged: What will you do for UHL as taoiseach?

Ennis College Further Education

TÁINAISTE Leo Varadkar has been urged to address chronic overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) when he takes over from Micheál Martin as Taoiseach.

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Michael McNamara stated almost every day of the lifetime of this Government University Hospital Limerick, (UHL) has been the most overcrowded hospital in the country.

“Of the 676 beds we were told would be required at the time of reconfiguration, more than one third have yet to materialise. As Head of Government, what will the Tánaiste do differently?

“The current Taoiseach has said it is a matter for the HSE, even though the HSE is not improving the situation?

“What will the Tánaiste do differently to ensure UHL is no longer providing a different level of healthcare from the rest of the country?,” he asked.

Minister Varadkar said he knows UHL well and has visited it several times.

“As Taoiseach and Minister for Health previously, I did my best to ensure it got a new state-of-the-art emergency department and additional beds. There are probably 100 or so more beds than a few years ago with more on the way. I helped secure the opening of the Leben Building, for example.

“A huge amount of investment has gone into that hospital. I accept it may not be enough, given that it is the only level 4 hospital for a very large region, but it is frustrating that that level of investment has not made much of a difference and so many people end up on trolleys.

“It is not right. It is the case that the hospital will need additional assistance, with more bed capacity in particular but we will have to get more involved in making sure patients are managed better as well.

“I have seen hospitals turn around. Drogheda used to always be one of the most overcrowded hospitals; Beaumont and Waterford were others.

“Those three hospitals have seen dramatic improvements and probably have not seen as much additional investment as Limerick. It is something I am keen to see resolved and improved dramatically over the next two years,” he said.

Overcrowding continues to be a problem in UHL even during the summer months when acute public hospitals are usually less busy.

UHL was the most overcrowded hospital in the country on Monday when there were 70 patients on trolleys compared to 50 in the next worst acute facility, St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin.

The Dooradoyle facility was still the most overcrowded public acute hospital on Wednesday when there were 59 patients on trolleys compared to 48 in the second worst hospital – Cork University Hospital.

Deputy Joe Carey has also raised the need for additional capacity in UHL in the Dáil.

“The Government has, in fairness, invested more than €100 million in the hospital over the past five or six years and there is increased capacity, with additional consultants, doctors and nurses, but we need much more.

“Currently, there are far too many people are in the emergency department and that is not acceptable. We need to accelerate capital investment in the hospital, expand capacity and look at enhanced roles for the model 2 hospitals, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and St John’s Hospital, which will require additional resources.

“Another key issue in the Mid-West relates to the provision of an elective-only hospital for the region, as proposed in the Sláintecare report.

“I have raised this issue with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Health, and a group of Government Deputies in the Mid-West have been pressing for this. I look forward to some support being forthcoming in the budget later this year for that type of initiative,” he said.

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