Update 4pm by David Raleigh:University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has said it has introduced a number of measures to try to deal with “crisis” levels of patient overcrowding.
Responding to calls from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), seeking the introduction of a “major emergency plan”, the hospital added it does not have sufficient bed capacity to cope with surges in patient numbers.
It was the countrys’ most overcrowded hospital today with 81 patients on trolleys.
The UL Hospital’s Group said the “ED at UHL is one of the busiest in the country” and was dealing with “a surge in presentations”.
“The ED in UHL remains busy with many frail elderly patients with complex medical conditions. UL Hospitals Group sincerely regrets that any patient faces long waits in our Emergency Department (ED) during busy periods and any distress or inconvenience this causes to patients and their loved ones,” it added.
A €25m emegerncy department was opened at the hospital in June 2017. It has designated spaces for 49 patients, compared with the old 33 bay A+E department.
“While patients still face delays in the new ED, it provides for a much-improved patient experience compared to the old department and has resulted in improved patient outcomes; allowing for earlier diagnostics and treatment of the sickest patients, better isolation facilities, improved pathways for major trauma/critical care and quicker door-to-needle times for stroke patients,” stated a spokesman for the hospital.
UHL has “just over 450 inpatient beds; this is recognised as not being sufficient for the needs of the MidWest Region”, they added.
Despite welcoming a commitment by the Minister for Health to increase bed capacity through the construction of a 60-bed modular inpatient block, and the hospital seeking a permanent 96-bed unit, the spokesman argued that “bed capacity remains considerably below comparable hospitals in Ireland”.
“Measures being taken to relieve pressure on the ED” include the “transfer of suitable patients” to other hospitals within the group, as well as other community care settings, as well as “maximising access to Homecare packages and Transition care; working closely with Community Intervention Teams to provide antibiotics and other appropriate care in a patient’s home or care facility and communication with GPs to ensure patients are referred to ED only where appropriate.”
It is “meeting and exceeding national target of 5 days average length of stay for surgical and medical patients and are within target for medical and surgical readmissions”.
For the second day running the hospital appealed to people to “consider all their care options before presenting to the Emergency Department at UHL”.
Injury Units are operating daily in Ennis and Nenagh from 8am-8pm, and from 8am-6pm Monday-Friday at St John’s Hospital, Limerick.
The hospital moved to assure patients they would be treated as a priority at the ED “if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk”.
Earlier, INMO Limerick representative, Mary Fogarty, said UHL was in “crisis mode” and called on the management to “halt all activity at the hospital with the exception of emergency admissions” to help ease pressures.
“We are gravely concerned about the capacity of the service to provide safe care to patients. It's clearly time for a Major Emergency Plan for the hospital,” Ms Fogarty said.
Update 11.35am by Steve Neville: The INMO is calling for an emergency plan to be put in place at University Hospital Limerick due to the high number of patients waiting for a bed.
The union's trolley watch figures show that 81 patients are waiting for a bed in the Limerick hospital.
According to the INMO, the number is the joint-highest figure recorded for any single hospital in a day.
The figure was recorded in the same hospital on April 3 earlier this year.
The group is now calling on the Government and HSE to put in place a Major Emergency Plan.
"This is a hospital in clear crisis. 81 patients on trolleys is the equivalent of three full wards," said INMO Limerick's Mary Fogarty.
"We are gravely concerned about the capacity of the service to provide safe care to patients.
"It's clearly time for a Major Emergency Plan for the hospital. We need to halt all activity at the hospital with the exception of emergency admissions, to enable the hospital to bring about a controlled and safe environment for patients.
“The hospital simply does not have enough capacity for this number of patients.
"The INMO wrote to the Minister for Health over recent ward closures, but it is now clearly time for HSE intervention and an urgent boost in resources from national government."
Earlier: Number of patients waiting for beds in University Hospital Limerick hits 81
There are 426 patients waiting for a bed in hospitals around Ireland, with University Hospital Limerick the worst hit.
According to the INMO's latest trolley watch figures, 298 patients are waiting in the emergency department, while 128 are in wards elsewhere in the hospital.
Limerick is again the worst hit hospital with 81 patients waiting for a bed. The number is up on yesterday's figure of 78, which in turn was up from Tuesday's figure.
Yesterday, the University of Limerick Hospitals Group appealed to the public to stay away from the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick “unless absolutely necessary”, due to patient overcrowding at the accident and emergency unit.
The worst hit hospitals today are: