‘Emergency’ measures used on 364 days at UHL

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Sinn FŽin TD Maurice Quinlivan. Photo: Mark Condren

AN EMERGENCY measure introduced as a last resort for dealing with overcrowding is now normal practice at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) as the capacity problem at the hospital gets worse.

That’s according to Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan who said that figures he received from the HSE show that the Full Capacity Protocol (FCP) was used on 364 days at the hospital last year.

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“The FCP is designed to be an emergency measure to deal with overcrowding. It is described by the Minister for Health himself as ‘the last escalation step in the HSE National Escalation Framework’ to address hospital overcrowding. Yet, despite this, it is now in constant use in UHL.

“This measure results in patients being put in inappropriate areas of hospitals, leading to overcrowding in wards and to the cancelling of elective procedures and aggressive discharging. It is not designed to be used every day.

“It is completely unacceptable that the Minister has allowed this practice to become the new norm at UHL”, Deputy Quinlivan declared.

He said that the measure was used on just 69 days in 2011.

“Being left in a hallway on a trolley or a chair for hours is a terrible situation for any sick patient. But 11,437 people had to experience this at UHL last year. We cannot continue to leave patients that come to hospital for treatment in these distressing situations.”

Hospital management have outlined the escalation procedures, which includes not scheduling operation for the busy holiday period and increasing the opening times for minor injury units.

“Since early December, services have remained very busy in the emergency department at UHL with increased patient attendances and patient admissions, many of these were over 75, frail elderly patients with complex care needs,” a hospital statement said.

“The UHL emergency department is still one of the busiest in the country and there were 1,682 attendances between December 24 and January 1. “All surge capacity is currently open to accommodate high volumes of patients requiring admission, including the new 19 bed Acute Medical Assessment Unit and the 11 bed Surgical Day Ward.

“Approximately seven in ten patients will be assessed, treated and discharged home. Patients admitted through the emergency department can face long waits for a bed but continue to be treated while they wait”, the statement concluded.