There were more patients on trolleys in corridors and wards at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) today than there was across the entirety of Dublin’s nine hospitals, according to official figures published by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The trolley crisis continued unabated at UHL despite a €25m state-of-the-art Emergency Department (ED) opening there in June 2017.
Today 72 patients, including 54 in the ED and 18 on general wards, were waiting for a bed at UHL.
Across Dublin, there were 71 patients (one less than in Limerick) languishing on trolleys.
Highlighting the latest INMO figures, Limerick Sinn Féin TD, Maurice Quinlivan, described the situation at UHL as “a thundering disgrace”.
“UHL has more patients on trolleys today than the nine Dublin hospitals combined. The situation in Limerick A&E would not be tolerated anywhere else in the country. It’s beyond disgraceful at this stage,” Deputy Quinlivan said.
According to the INMO’s monthly trolley-watch report, UHL was the worst-affected hospital with 1,054 patients on trolleys there for the whole of March, followed by Cork University Hospital (870) and University Hospital Galway (722).
The report revealed 9,714, including 117 children, were waiting for a bed in hospitals in March - a 14% increase on February 2019 figures.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha warned that “if our health service doesn't see staffing and capacity increases, conditions will only worsen for patients and staff alike."
Deputy Quinlivan requested Minister for Health Simon Harris “step in” or “step down” from his ministry.
The Government has allocated €2m for enabling works for a proposed €19.5m temporary 60-bed inpatient block.
The hospital has also sought funding for a permanent 96-bed unit, but the Government has yet to sign off on the plan.
Responding to the latest trolley figures, the Mayor of Limerick City and County, Cllr James Collins said: “We need 300 extra beds in Limerick. What we’ve been promised is €2m towards a €19m 60-bed modular unit.
“This government can’t see beyond Dublin. It has presided over soaraway costs at the National Children’s hospital, while hospitals in other cities are chronically overcrowded and underfunded.”
In a statement today, a spokesman for UL Hospitals Group said the hospital “sincerely regrets that any patient has to face long waits in our Emergency Department (ED)”.
“The ED at UHL is one of the busiest in the country and the numbers presenting continue to increase year-on-year. Attendances to the end of December 2018 were 71,824 representing an increase of over 6% on 2017.”
It said the closure of 17 beds in a medical short-stay unit “has been offset by the opening of 22 beds elsewhere in the hospital in recent weeks”.
“In addition, the Medical Assessment Unit has increased in capacity by two beds and moved from a five-day week, 12-hour service, to 24/7 since January.”
When asked for a response to comments made Monday by Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan accusing Simon Harris of having “done absolutely nothing” to address chronic patient overcrowding in University Hospital Limerick, the Department of Health said the new Emergency Department in University Hospital Limerick is one of the busiest in the country with the number of attendees growing year on year.
"Limerick was identified as a one of nine sites requiring additional focus and support as part of this year’s Winter Plan.”
“This included additional home support packages and transitional care beds to support people to leave hospital and return home.”
“It is widely agreed that a key part of the solution for Limerick is additional beds. Over the past 18 months, an additional 23 beds have opened in Limerick, including 5 as part of this years Winter Plan.”
“A Capital Allocation for 2019 of €2 million has been granted in recent weeks and the HSE advise that this will facilitate the completion of enabling works for the 60 bed modular ward in 2019.”
“In addition, the National Development Plan includes a 96 bed replacement ward block at University Hospital Limerick and capital funding was provided in 2018 to progress the design phase of this project.”