TROLLEY figures for people who had been admitted to University Hospital Limerick (UHL) but had no in-hospital beds soared to an all-time high this week with an official figure of 81 people on trolleys on Wednesday and 72 on Monday.
Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan commented that the Monday figure was more than nine Dublin hospitals combine.
Of the Wednesday numbers, he said, “81 people on trolleys were recorded at the INMO count at 8am this morning, but this had already climbed to 92 people before midday.
“This is absolutely appalling. This is the highest ever recorded at UHL. It is a shocking indictment of this government’s health policy.
“Patients and their families are being packed into this hospital like sardines, and nurses and doctors are being forced to treat sick patients on corridors and work in a dangerously overcrowded environment.
“No patient should have to be treated on a hospital trolley when they are at their sickest, let alone 92 people already today. I have been informed that patients are waiting days to get a hospital bed.
“Last Friday, Ward 1A at UHL was closed to facilitate building works at the fracture unit. This ward has 17 inpatient beds. We simply cannot afford any closure of beds at UHL. We need substantially more beds to be opened immediately.
The INMO’s Industrial Relations Officer in Limerick, Mary Fogarty, who is attending meetings at UHL today said:
“Staff and patients are under intolerable pressure in Limerick today. This is the worst-ever figure we’ve recorded in an Irish hospital.
“This comes less than a week after a 17-bed ward in UHL was shut. The beds that have been closed in UHL need to be reopened immediately.
“We are calling on the Minister to intervene and deal with the chronic overcrowding in the hospital as an urgent matter of patient and staff safety.”
The INMO has launched a petition, calling for the closed ward to be reopened and for bed capacity and staffing to be increased: https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/reopen-the-closed-beds-in-university-hospital-limerick
In a statement, the UL Hospitals Group said it “sincerely regrets that any patient has to face long waits in our Emergency Department (ED) during busy periods and any distress or inconvenience this causes to patients and their loved ones.
“The ED at UHL is one of the busiest in the country and the numbers presenting continue to increase year on year. Attendances to the end of December 2018 were 71,824 representing an increase of over 6 per cent on 2017.
“The Emergency Department has been exceptionally busy in recent days with high numbers of patients presenting, including many frail elderly patients with complex medical conditions. In the 24 hours up to midnight on Monday, there were a total of 239 attendances in the ED.
“At 8am on Tuesday, April 2nd, there were in excess of 100 patients in the ED, including 39 admitted patients waiting for a bed. In addition, there were a further 13 patients appropriately isolated in single rooms within the ED. A shortage of appropriate isolation facilities elsewhere in the hospital makes this the best solution for proper infection prevention and control and in the interests of all patients. Patients requiring isolation facilities will also be transferred to a ward as soon as an appropriate room is available.
“While patients still face delays in the new ED, it provides for a much improved patient experience compared to the old department and has resulted in improved patient outcomes; allowing for earlier diagnostics and treatment of the sickest patients, better isolation facilities, improved pathways for major trauma/critical care and quicker door-to-needle times for stroke patients.
“UL Hospitals Group notes the commentary in recent days in respect of the closure of the 17-bedded Medical Short Stay Ward 1A and again points out that 22 beds have opened elsewhere in the hospital in recent weeks. The space occupied by 1A is being converted into a new acute fracture unit.
“This is in accordance with the overall plan to redesignate the space occupied by the old Emergency Department at UHL. This will have a significant benefit for patients attending our busy fracture clinic in terms of reduced wait times and improved patient experience. After the old ED was vacated, the Medical Short Stay Unit opened on a temporary basis and this will shortly be converted to a fracture unit in accordance with the plan. The Group is looking forward to improving the experience of orthopaedic patients as well as increasing overall bed capacity.
“UHL has just over 450 inpatient beds; this is recognised as not being sufficient for the needs of the Mid West Region. The Group welcomes the commitment to increasing bed capacity at UHL and in particular the €2million recently allocated for the enabling work for the 60-bed inpatient block at UHL. Work on this first phase of the 60-bed block has commenced in recent days and delivery of this project will begin to help us address our capacity issues in the MidWest.
“Measures being taken to relieve pressure on the ED and as part of our escalation policy includes the transfer of suitable patients to other hospitals within our group; the transfer of appropriate patients to community care settings and maximising access to Homecare packages and Transition care; working closely with Community Intervention Teams to provide antibiotics and other appropriate care in a patient’s home or care facility and communication with GPs to ensure patients are referred to ED only where appropriate.