By David Raleigh
PLANS for a 120-bed replacement in-patient block at St John's Hospital, Limerick - to help tackle long-term patient overcrowding in University Hospital Limerick - are said to be “progressing”.
A feasibility study has found that plans for the original development of a 90-in patient unit at St John’s could be extended to 120, explained Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne.
"I received confirmation from the Minister for Health Simon Harris TD that the 120 bed in-patient block is now among the proposals for the HSE's Capital Plan and is due to be discussed by the HSE's National Capital Steering Committee,” Senator Byrne said.
"After Minister Harris's visit to St John's Hospital in June 2017 an updated feasibility study was carried out to establish if the development could be extended from 90 to 120 in-patient beds.”
“The further feasibility study completed last month and confirmed that this was possible.”
University Hospital Limerick has consistently experienced the highest levels of patient overcrowding in the country.
Today, Wednesday, UHL again had the highest numbers of patients waiting on trolleys instead of beds.
According to figures published by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), there were 57 patients waiting on trolleys.
Out of the 57 waiting, 35 were on trolleys in the hospital’s emergency department, which was officially opened last year after a €24m upgrade.
"It is unacceptable that many people have their loved ones left waiting on trolleys in the new UHL emergency department when St John's could have the capacity to cater for existing patients in UHL,” Senator Byrne said.
"The replacement 120 bedroom units will help to reduce waiting lists for procedures as there will be more day beds available and all services can be expanded,” she said.
“This expansion will also lead to job creation as the services will be expanded and more staff will be required.”
Speaking last June, UHL Hospital Group Chief Clinical Director, Paul Burke, said overcrowding at the hospital will never end unless there is a general sea-change in the governance of healthcare services.
Hospital managers said then they were trying to tackle overcrowding and waiting lists with inadequate resources.
Low bed capacity, high attendances, low level of consultants, inadequate infrastructure, and, an ageing population, are considered by management to be some of the “myriad” of problems it faces, added Noreen Spillane, Chief Operations Manager, UHL Group.
The Limerick hospital currently serves a population of 385,000, not including those coming from north Cork, north Kerry, and south Tipperary.
Attendances at A and Es nationally last June had risen 7% nationally, however at UHL, there was a 17% increase, “which creates huge pressures” on the entire hospital, Mr Burke said.
The hospital has applied for government funding for a permanent 96-bed unit as well as a 60-bed modular unit to help alleviate pressure on the system.
However, there is no timeline on when a decision on funding will be made.