A PROBE into the overcrowding crisis at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has been announced by Health Minister Simon Harris.
Heading the investigation will be independent experts from the British National Health Service (NHS) and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.
UHL is the first of a number of hospitals to go under the microscope of expert examination following the Minister’s announcement in May that such an investigation would be undertaken.
The move comes in the wake of record-breaking numbers this month of patients through the emergency department having to wait on trolleys or in overflow wards for a hospital bed.
On Wednesday of last week, there were 78 patients waiting for a bed at UHL, according to figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and 81 later in the week.
The monthly figures show there were 833 patients on trolleys last month at UHL.
In response to a Dáil question last week, Minister Harris told Limerick Fine Gael TD Tom Neville that the external groups will include data analysts from RCSI as well as clinical and management experts from the NHS in Scotland.
Terms of reference and membership of the review panel have been decided and preliminary data has been collected and sent on to the members in advance of their hospital visits.
In a statement to the Limerick Post, the HSE said it had recently published the Terms of Reference of an Independent Review that will form part of the overall evaluation of its Winter Plan (2018/19)
“The Independent Review will focus on nine hospitals and relevant community healthcare organisations that were the subject of focused support throughout the winter. The hospitals were Tullamore, Tallaght, Naas, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Galway, St. Vincent’s and the Mater.
“The aim of this review is to identify and better understand the specific factors that contributed to improved performance over the winter period and to identify key learning in terms of what worked well, key challenges and the improvement opportunities in terms of optimising existing capacity and capability.
“The review will also help inform the planning process for this year’s Winter Plan (2019/20)”
Meanwhile, Nursing Homes Ireland has reiterated the critical requirement for hospital management in Limerick to be proactive in their engagement with nursing homes with view to alleviating the overcrowding problems. 24 private and voluntary nursing homes in County Limerick have 1,126 registered beds.
Nursing Homes Ireland chief executive Tadhg Daly said that beds were available at nursing homes in Limerick and across the Midwest region to provide specialist care for people requiring step-down care from UHL.
“We urge the HSE to ensure their engagement with patients preparing for discharge is timely and the necessary funding supports are immediately available to facilitate swift transfer from hospital back to the community.”
Limerick Labour Party TD Jan O’Sullivan described the past week in UHL as “beyond breaking-point” and called for an emergency fund to free up all beds, nursing home places and home care that can relieve the pressure.
“It is incredible that we have 81 people on trolleys in the hospital today, in the month of July with other days not much better. This requires an urgent and immediate response,” she concluded.