UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick recorded a 75 per cent increase in the number of patients on trolleys this July compared to the same period last year, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
The organisation is now calling for the immediate introduction of 70 new beds at the hospital to ease overcrowding.
Figures released by the INMO this week revealed that the number of patients on trolleys at UHL in the month of July was 377, a major increase on the 215 in July 2013.
INMO industrial relations officer for the Mid West Mary Fogarty said the figures only referred to the emergency department.
“If you look at the hospital as a whole, in terms of the number of patients overall that have been on extra beds in wards and in the emergency department, you’re looking at a significant increase of 215 patients. So that’s from 260 up to 475 patients who didn’t have an allocated proper bed within the hospital in July.”
She continued: “There is no option here for the hospital other than to put in additional bed capacity. It needs in our view a minimum of 70 beds. From the Quality Improvement plan that we’ve received, they are now looking for funding to put in place an additional 30 beds.”
The INMO plans to meet with Health Minister Leo Varadkar in September to raise the overcrowding situation “as an immediate priority which must be addressed”.
A HSE spokesperson told the Limerick Post: “The increase in the number of patients waiting on trolleys in the emergency department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick during July is not attributable to one issue but is related to a range of different factors.”
According to the spokesperson, these factors included an outbreak of Norovirus (the winter vomiting bug) at the hospital, the complexity of patients presenting for treatment, and the fact that a number of wards were closed in St John’s Hospital due to refurbishment work.
The HSE says it has put in place a number of actions to address the issue of patients on trolleys, and that the new emergency department is expected to open in 2016.
Regarding the INMO’s call for 70 extra beds, the HSE spokesperson said they could not comment on how the organisation reached that figure.
“Over the last year, University Hospital Limerick has added 21 additional beds and 20 were added to St John’s Hospital. A plan for a new 96-bed ward forms part of the 2014-2016 UL Hospitals strategic plan,” concluded the spokesperson.