€24m A&E at UL ‘won’t help reduce trolley numbers’

The HSE is opening a new €24 million emergency department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick today — but the new facility won’t do anything to reduce the numbers on trolleys at the hospital.

From 8am, the new ED will accept its first patients, resulting in the closure of the current ED that has consistently ranked amongst having the highest numbers of patients on trolleys.

A 2014 report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) declared it as “not fit for purpose” and said it posed a number of risks to patient safety. The numbers attending have increased by 27.5% between the 51,000 in 2010 and the 65,000 treated there last year.

The soaring attendance was due to a growing ageing population in the midwest, but also to the closure of 24-hour A&E care at Ennis and Nenagh hospitals.

Dr Cormac Mehigan, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the ED at Limerick, said the opening of the new ED will not impact on the trolley numbers, and that it was a wider hospital issue.

“The processes need to change in the wider hospital,” he said. “We need additional capacity in terms of beds. Those are the things that will impact on that — a new ED won’t specifically impact on trolley beds.”

However, Dr Mehigan said the new ED will end the chaos of moving trolleys around and having trolleys lying next to each other.

CEO of the UL Hospitals Group, Prof Colette Cowan said the new unit is three times the size of the existing ED “and is the best ED in the country”. She said a dry run for the ED involving 30 volunteers posing as patients “has worked very well”.

Chief Director of Nursing at the UL Hospitals group, Bridget Hoctor, said the new ED will make a huge difference as they had worked in a very cramped environment for a long time and had not been able to give the standard of care they wanted.”

Prof Cowan said the hospital’s next project is to add 96 beds, and this is at design and planning stage. The hospital also has plans to provide 17 new temporary beds in the ED being shut down.

The opening today follows the HSE allaying the patient concerns of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) over the new ED.

After negotiations with management, INMO Industrial Relations Officer, Mary Fogarty, said: “Through the collective action of INMO members, improvements have been made which will provide safer care in the new emergency department.”


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