UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick (UHL) has introduced a series of measures to deal with “crisis” levels of patient overcrowding after it experienced a surge in patient numbers last week.
Responding to calls from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) for the introduction of a “major emergency plan”, hospital management admitted it does not have sufficient bed capacity to cope with surges in patient numbers.
UHL was the countrys’ most overcrowded hospital this Wednesday with 51 patients on trolleys. There were 400 patients waiting for beds around the country including 286 in overcrowded emergency departments.
A statement from the UL Hospitals Group said that the emergency department at UHL was one of the busiest in the country.
Last week it said it experienced “a surge in presentations including many from frail elderly patients with complex medical conditions”.
A €25 million emergency department was opened at the hospital in June 2017 with designated spaces for 49 patients, compared with the old 33 bay accident and emergency unit.
“While patients still face delays in the new emergency department, it provides for a much-improved patient experience compared to the old department and has resulted in improved patient outcomes,” a UHL spokesman said.
“UHL has just over 450 inpatient beds. This is recognised as not being sufficient for the needs of the MidWest Region”, he added.
“Measures being taken to relieve pressure on the emergency department include the transfer of suitable patients to other hospitals within the group, and other community care settings”.
The strategy also includes improving access to homecare packages and transition care; working with Community Intervention Teams to provide appropriate care in a patient’s home or care facility and asking doctors to ensure patients are referred to the emergency department only where appropriate.
The spokesman said that UHL was “meeting and exceeding national target of five days average length of stay for surgical and medical patients and are within target for medical and surgical re-admissions”.
Last week, INMO Limerick representative, Mary Fogarty, said UHL was in “crisis mode” and called on the management to “halt all activity at the hospital with the exception of emergency admissions” to help ease pressures.
“We are gravely concerned about the capacity of the service to provide safe care to patients. It’s clearly time for a major emergency plan at the hospital,” she added.