University Hospital Limerick (UHL) requires up to 100 additional acute beds but the reality is nurses are asking for beds to be closed because they do not have the staff to man existing stock, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
Mary Fogarty, INMO spokeswoman, said the reconfiguration of hospital services in the Midwest which resulted in the closure of emergency departments (EDs) at St John’s Hospital, Limerick; Ennis in Clare; and Nenagh in Tipperary and the streamlining of services into UHL had contributed to the “mess” they now found themselves in.
“This could all have been predicted with reconfiguration. Someone should examine how this has been allowed to happen,” said Ms Fogarty.
With 47 patients on trolleys in the ED and on wards yesterday, Ms Fogarty said numbers had been high for the last number of months due to higher attendances at the ED and more elderly seeking treatment. Trolley figures had reached an all-time high last month, hitting the mid-50s, she said.
The HSE says five non-emergency procedures were cancelled this week because of numbers at the ED.
Ms Fogarty said: “The problem is the lack of beds in the main hospital. We need a minimum of 100 acute beds. We lost 50 acute beds in Ennis and Nenagh under reconfiguration. That loss, together with closure of the EDs, has made UHL much busier. We are lobbying for a 100-bed block but that is probably miles down the road.”
The problem was compounded by bed closures elsewhere in the city, Ms Fogarty said, including 10-15 beds at St Camillus’ Community Hospital in Limerick.
“Winter here is going to be very difficult. We don’t have enough beds and we don’t have enough nurses,” she said.
It’s understood that about 20% of nursing positions at UHL are vacant. The hospital has about 1,000 nurses. City-wide the INMO estimates up to 350 nurses are required.
But the HSE says just 62 posts need to be filled and that “this figure does not include temporary vacancies arising from maternity leave”.
The hospital is constructing a new emergency department three and a half times the size of the existing structure for which up to 100 additional staff are expected to be recruited. However the completion date was moved from March 2017 to May.
The emergency department at UHL is one of the busiest in the country with 60,000 attendances annually.
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