Hospital overcrowding reaches breaking point

Ongoing chronic overcrowding at the emergency department of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick hit a new crisis point yesterday.

The hospital said those only in urgent need should seek treatment there.

The call followed a sudden surge in emergency cases at the hospital on Wednesday, which resulted in 36 patients on trolleys at the emergency department and an unprecedented demand for in-patient beds.

A HSE spokeswoman said: “Extra ward rounds took place during the day to release beds through discharging patients who could safely be sent home.

“The situation at the hospital improved steadily during the evening, and at 8am yesterday morning the number of patients waiting on trolleys in the emergency department had been reduced to four. However, the hospital is operating at full capacity and all overflow areas are fully in use.”

Due to the latest crisis at the hospital, 21 day-ward surgical procedures were cancelled yesterday, along with two angiograms, two bronchoscopies and 45 outpatient appointments.

Hospital chief executive Ann Doherty said: “These are choices we do not make lightly. Every patient is important to us, but in the current situation we have to make hard decisions. We very much regret the inevitable delay and inconvenience but dealing with the situation in the emergency department must take priority.”

The HSE said it has not been able to find out why there was such a surge in admissions.

Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said James Reilly, the health minister, must now face up to the reality that the hospital is dealing with patient care demands far beyond its resources.

Mr Collins said the overcrowding was putting unacceptable strain on both staff and patients, as he called for more resources to be made available. “You just have to walk into the hospital to see that it cannot cope.”


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