The Regional Health Forum West has called for emergency departments in local hospitals to be reopened to address chronic overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
Responding to the unanimously supported motion, the hospital said it is “imperative” Limerick gets an elective hospital to address this crisis.
The cross-party motion said the national reconfiguration policy has failed to offer safer care and called for non-emergency care at Ennis, Nenagh, and St John’s Hospitals to be further expanded.
This is the latest salvo in a campaign to reverse a decision laid out in 2009 and expanded on in 2013 which focused emergency care at UHL only while delivering less critical care in the other hospitals.
Green Party councillor and paramedic Liam Grant said UHL “cannot handle” the numbers it is seeing as result of this policy.
“At what point will they admit their attempts to solve this have failed?” he asked.
“The injury clinic in Ennis was just upgraded which is great, but there is room to expand the services there. The hospitals around UHL need to start pulling their weight to take some of the heat off UHL.”
He said an offer by the hospital group to meet with councillors is welcome but he is not sure what it will accomplish.
Fine Gael councillor Mary Howard expressed her frustration at the situation and said she regularly hears heartbreaking stories from constituents affected by the trolley crisis.
There were 80 patients on trolleys yesterday according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
“Extra beds have been added into Limerick but they have been subsumed within the system because it is serving three counties,” Ms Howard said.
“They also need to broaden the remit of what Ennis, Nenagh and St Johns can do.”
A hospital spokesman said decisions around reversing the closures are government policy, and not a matter for the hospital group or the HSE.
“We believe that an elective hospital to serve the well-described needs of the patients in the midwest is now imperative,” he said.
“Pressure on our emergency department at UHL, with over 80% of all admissions relating to emergency care, is such that our ability to provide scheduled care is hampered and patients are cancelled with increasing regularity.”
Management met with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to ask why Limerick is not getting an elective hospital under Sláintecare as Cork and Galway are, he said.
UHL has “the lowest inpatient bed capacity” per population compared to other large hospitals with 200 beds needed to reach the national average, he said.