Limerick hospital's €25m emergency department unable to cope with demand

Professor Colette Cowan

The chief executive of University Hospital Limerick, Professor Colette Cowan has admitted that the €25 million emergency department opened just 18 months ago is not able to cope with the numbers coming through its doors.

The hospital’s emergency department is the second busiest in the country she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, and while service has improved since the opening of the new facility there remains an issue with bed capacity.

Patients who have been treated in the emergency department frequently then remain on trolleys awaiting beds in the hospital.

Professor Cowan pointed out that all beds in the hospital are open.

Plans are under way to change methodology to increase bed capacity and at present the plan is to look at other pathways for patients.

“We are trying to get patients discharged early, this is a system wide problem,” she explained.

Prof Cowan said that the earliest the bed capacity can improve would be in 12 months with plans for a new 60 bed block.

Under the Government’s 2040 Programme there are further plans for a 96 bed unit.

Winter planning for the hospital began last May, she added.

“We sit down in early May and write up plans. We don’t schedule operations for early January.

"We deliberately slow down so we can just focus on emergency services.”

The extra funding announced this week in the HSE’s Winter Plan is very welcome she said and will be used to increase services such as emergency theatre access.

Prof Cowan said she was proud of the hospital’s staff and their performance which had resulted in low re-admission rates.

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