‘Absolute hell’ as Limerick emergency department staff see 220 people daily

The UL Hospitals Group, which oversees Limerick’s three hospitals, has apologised to patients because the city’s emergency department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick is “not fit for purpose”.

This is after a whistleblower described conditions there as “absolute hell”. The whistleblower had also said that nurses and doctors there were seeing “an average of 220 patients per day”.

Emergency departments at St John’s Hospital, Limerick; Ennis, in Clare; and Nenagh, in Tipperary, were closed down by the previous Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition government and streamlined to UHL.

“It’s been absolute hell, recently,” the source said. “We are constantly down staff and dealing with hundreds of patients.”

The whistleblower said 33 patients waited at the hospital last Monday, just to see a triage nurse.

“This was 33 people just waiting to get in. The capacity at the hospital, for safe numbers of trolleys in the ED, is 36, but we had 54 last week. It’s horrific.”

In response, the UL Hospitals Group said it “has long-acknowledged that the emergency department at UHL is too small for the volumes of patients attending. The ED is one of the busiest in the country, with approximately 60,000 attendances annually. Over the year, this means an average of approximately 160 patients attending daily. Seasonal factors mean that during the winter peak, ED attendances can occasionally exceed 200 per day.

“There were, for example, 179 ED attendances between 8am on Thursday, February 18, and 8am on Friday, February 19,” said the UL Hospitals Group.

“The total numbers in the ED overnight... rarely exceed 70 patients.”

The group reiterated that “a new, state-of-the-art emergency department, that will triple the size of the current department, is currently being fitted-out and will open in the first quarter of 2017”.

It said it had tried to tackle the crisis by:

  • Increasing (overall) bed capacity by over 40 in the last two months;
  • Hiring additional staff;
  • Adding ward rounds to facilitate earlier discharge or transfer;
  • Securing funding to open a facility for elderly patients at St John’s Hospital;
  • Postponing non-urgent elective surgery if necessary;
  • Closer co-operation with our colleagues in the Community Healthcare Organisation.


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