The chief executive of the hospital at the centre of the trolley crisis has admitted there will be no increase in beds there for at least another year.
Colette Cowan, chief executive of the University Hospital Limerick (UHL) group, also criticised politicians for using terms such as “catastrophe” in the Dáil in relation to the hospital without going there and seeing the work being done by staff.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, there were 13,941 people on trollies in UHL in 2019. That’s almost 3,000 more than the next worst hospital, Cork University Hospital with 11,066.
Colette Cowan admitted the hospital is dealing with a shortage of beds that will not be rectified in the short term.
“We simply need an increase from 445 to 600 beds as our current bed base is the lowest in the country,” she said, adding that those new beds would need to be accompanied by the appropriate staffing numbers.
Work has commenced on a 60-bed block, but it will not be ready for another 12 months. Design money has been granted to commence the development process for a 90-bed block.
“We profoundly regret that people have to wait on trolleys,” said Ms Cowan. “It is very difficult for patients and their families and it’s not what we want.
“The answer is more beds. We have another year and another winter as we are, with regards to beds.”
However, Ms Cowan said that UHL is now the best performing hospital in the country for the shortest stay for both surgical and medical patients.
“That shows clinicians are seeing and treating patients as fast as they can and getting patients back home,” she said.
We also watch our re-admission rates to guard against patients being discharged too soon. And again in this regard, we have the lowest rate of readmissions in the country.
To try to cope with ongoing increased numbers, she said the hospital has put in place a number of initiatives such as surgical and medical assessment units.
“We got a second MRI scan unit which was in Letterkenny and this will start to function within days,” said Ms Cowan. “This will speed up people needing MRI scans and as a consequence free up to 20 beds.”