by Gordon Deegan
The intolerable conditions faced by patients and staff at the overcrowded A&E at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) are set to be further prolonged.
That is according to Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) officer, Mary Fogarty who was commenting on plans for a €14m 60-bed unit aimed at alleviating the chronic overcrowding at the A&E unit at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) being hit by a fresh delay.
The delay arises from Dooradoyle resident, Joe McNamara lodging an appeal to An Bord Pleanala against the decision last month by Limerick City and County Council to give the project the green light.
The A&E at the hospital is frequenting ranked at the most over-crowded A&E in the country and last month, the INMO reported that the hospital had the highest figure for patients on hospital trolleys in the country during August at 969.
The A&E unit serves the Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary - however, there is now a question mark over the 60-bed plan after Mr McNamara’s appeal.
Ms Fogarty said: “Everyone has the right to appeal but the appeal will delay the 60-bed block and prolong the intolerable conditions faced by staff and patients at the A&E.
Ms Fogarty said: “It is very hard for staff and it is a pity that this project is being held up. It is disappointing. These beds are long overdue and should have been in place 10 years and the hospital continues to play catch up.”
Independent member of HSE West Forum and Clare Co Council, Cllr Ann Norton echoed Ms Fogarty’s view when she said: “Everyone has the right to object, but it is a pity that this development has been appealed to An Bord Pleanala as the beds are very much needed at UHL”
The appeal by Mr McNamara - if maintained - will delay the final grant of permission for the development for four to six months or stop it from proceeding altogether.
A spokeswoman for the UL Hospitals Group said yesterday: “We are hopeful the appeal will be resolved to all parties satisfaction and that it will not impact on the delivery of the project.”
Mr McNamara was one of a small number of local residents to make submissions on the development.
In his submission, Mr McNamara stated that it is inappropriate for the developer to seek planning permission for a building and car-parks of this scale without a landscaping plan that would help alleviate the negative effects on the residential amenity.
Mr McNamara stated that 11 major projects have been carried out in the hospital over the past eight years. He said that this represents a massive intensification of use of a facility in the middle of a residential district.
Mr McNamara from Woodlawn Drive, Dooradoyle, said that a master plan should be submitted to enable the assessment of how the block fits in with proposed and past developments on the site.
The proposal is that the 60 additional beds will all be single patient rooms with en suites.
The UHL Hospitals Group spokeswoman said: “With these additional single rooms, the initiative would help to improve patient comfort, safety, privacy and dignity and assist with the management of infection control in the hospital."
She said: “The additional 60 beds would directly increase capacity allowing patients access to an increased overall bed-stock and improve patient flow across the hospital.”