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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Alamy The downgrading of local hospitals has been previously highlighted as a key factor behind the overcrowding.

University Limerick Hospital group issues apology over record-breaking overcrowding levels

The hospital group said overcrowding levels are ‘far in excess of where we want to be’.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 23rd 2023, 1:25 PM

THE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL Limerick Group has issued an apology to patients facing long waiting times for a bed after the Irish Nurses and Midwives Union (INMO) reported that overcrowding levels at the hospital were record-breaking this morning. 

The INMO said that 130 patients were waiting on trolleys for beds at the hospital this morning, which is the highest the figure has been in the hospital since the union started its trolley count in 2004. 

In a statement issued this afternoon, the hospital group said that overcrowding levels are “far in excess of where we want to be”. 

“We apologise to every one of our patients who faces a long wait time for an inpatient bed,” the hospital group added. 

It clarified that there was a total of 87 patients waiting outside of designated bed areas across the hospital this morning, including 24 boarded in the hospital’s Acute Medical Assessment Unit, and 34 patients on trolleys in inpatient wards. 

In addition, The number of admitted patients on trolleys on corridors was 39, with the 25 other admitted patients either in designated bed spaces in single rooms and cubicles.

The hospital group added that it is following its escalation framework to deal with the overcrowding, and reviewing elective activity at the hospital on a daily basis as it is working to maximise surge capacity, while ensuring that time critical cases can proceed as scheduled. 

“Ongoing measures include opening surge capacity across all sites; transferring patients on trolleys to our inpatient wards; additional ward rounds by medical teams to expedite discharges or identify patients suitable for transfer to Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals; and working closely with our colleagues in HSE Mid West Community Healthcare in order to expedite discharges,” the hospital group added in its statement. 

It urged everyone in the Midwest to reduce pressure on the emergency department at the hospital by attending the correct medical facility for their level of need, and for the level of urgency of their case. 

INMO Assistant Director for Industrial Relations for the Midwest, Mary Fogarty said that today’s record-breaking figure “comes as no surprise” to the unions members “who have been working in overcrowded and understaffed wards with no reprieve for years on end”.

Fogarty said: “The fact that there are more patients on trolleys across the hospital itself than in the emergency department itself is making the provision of safe and timely care impossible.”

The union’s assistant director said that patient flow out of the emergency department is currently proving difficult due to the volume of trolleys in the hospital.

“Our members are burnt out and demoralised as a direct result of their working conditions. It is impossible for them to provide safe care in a working environment that is persistently dangerous,” she added.

“INMO members feel that none of the interventions directed by hospital management have had any positive impact to date.”

Fogarty called on the hospital management and the HSE to outline targeted interventions in order to “take the pressure off our members for the sake of patient safety”.

‘These aren’t just statistics, these are real people’

Sinn Féin TD for Limerick City Maurice Quinlivan said that the overcrowding is “a damning indictment of the Government’s health policies”.

“For perspective, that’s almost the same number of people packed into UHL on trolleys, as there are beds in Nenagh, Croom and Ennis hospitals combined. It’s absolutely scandalous,” Quinlivan said.

These aren’t just statistics, these are real people in need of urgent medical care.”

Quinlivan said that health minister Stephen Donnelly needs to “get his head out of the sand” and travel to Limerick to meet with those affected – who the TD claims he has had significant consultations with over the last number of months.

Labour Party TD Duncan Smith highlighted that the HSE’s recruitment shortage may hemorrhage the issue and labelled the overcrowding as “outrageous”.

The party’s heath spokesperson said: “Failure to tackle the systemic crisis in health will lead to poorer health outcomes for patients, and we already know that many people delay going to their local A&E for fear of adding to the overcrowding issue.”

“It should not be for patients, or hospital workers, to worry about the chronic failures in health. The Minister and this Coalition must step up and provide a pathway to delivering safe care over the weeks, months and years ahead,” he added.

The Journal reported in June that an unannounced inspection of the hospital carried out in February by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found that 72 patients were on trolleys and chairs.

In January, a “major internal incident” was announced as UHL became overwhelmed with patient numbers. 

The downgrading of Ennis Hospital, as well as other similarly sized hospitals in Limerick city and Nenagh, has been highlighted by doctors and health campaigners in the Mid-West as the key factor behind the overcrowding.  

Figures from the INMO’s trolley watch found 563 patients nationally are on trolleys today. Twenty-three percent of the patients are in University Hospital Limerick.

To get updates on the situation at UHL, you can check @HSELive and @ULHospitals on Twitter/X or for updates. 

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