Business as usual as Limerick patients bear chaos with tea and makeshift seats

It was chaotic business as usual at University Hospital Limerick’s emergency department yesterday.

UHL topped the daily trolley table of shame with 54 patients. Up to 70 patients jammed the waiting/reception area at around 3pm.

So crammed were conditions that one 14-year-old girl from Nenagh with a suspected burst appendix had to sit on a window sill as her parents stood beside her.

Her father said: “We came in at around 11am. Our daughter was not well last night and we brought her to our GP this morning. Our doctor felt it safer to bring her in and have it checked out. In the good old days, we would have been able to take her into our local hospital in Nenagh. She has been seen two times and blood tests taken and they haven’t ruled out the appendix yet.

“It is very overcrowded in here, but we expected this on the way in as we heard about the numbers on trolleys on the radio.”

Another patient, Alice Ashton from Askeaton, did manage to find a seat, or at least what was meant to be a seat. The timber upper structure was missing and she had to put a coat on the metal plate for some comfort.

“I am here since 10.30am and was sent in by my GP,” she said. “I went to him to him with chest pains this morning and he said to come straight in. I have a history of chest pains. I was triaged around 1pm and I am just waiting now to find out what the next step is.”

Ignatius O’Riordan, aged 45, from Kilkishen, Co Clare came in with a threatened clot in his leg. He said: “I am not able to sit and to be honest I’d prefer to go home, but my wife is insisting that I stay and have it seen to.”

His wife Caroline said all the standing was not doing his leg any good. “But what can you do?” she added.

John Sweeney, aged 80, from Cappamore had come in for a brain scan. He got talking to the woman sitting next to him, Margaret, 83.

As they talked about times past, Margaret said: “I’d love a cup of tea.”

“Do you take sugar?” asked John as he went to find the tea vending machine

Margaret told me: “I fed the birds and was getting the dinner when I got a phonecall from my doctor to say he got the results of a blood test he took last Wednesday and he told me to go straight to the hospital. He said it was urgent and I dropped everything. I am waiting to see a doctor.

“The staff here can’t help it, it’s not their fault. I have a sister who’s a patient here for the past few weeks and she is getting brilliant treatment.”

A notice nearby said there was six-hour wait to be seen by a doctor.

Mary Fogarty, industrial relations officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation in the Mid-West, said the 70 nursing posts approved on Monday night for the UHL group of hospital cannot come fast enough.

Most will be deployed to Dooradoyle UHL.

Recruitment is already under way and 25 temporary beds in Ward 1B, which is taking the overflow from the emergency department, will become permanent.

She said many newly qualified nurses will be recruited and nurses who were forced to go abroad will also get permanent work.

Along with increased number of nurses, Monday’s agreement provides for an independent assessor to monitor patient numbers at the emergency department and liaise with the INMO and hospital management to address overcrowding on an ongoing basis.

More in this section