Limerick hospital trolley numbers broke every record last month

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Patients on trolleys along the corridor at UHL.

HEAVY criticism has been voiced about the number of people left on trolleys and in overflow wards in August with the University Hospital Limerick breaking all records at 1,197.

Meanwhile, there were 76 admitted patients waiting for a bed on trolleys in the emergency department on this Wednesday morning.

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Limerick Labour Party TD Jan O’Sullivan has called on Health Minister Simon Harris to sanction the approval of posts for all recently graduated nurses and midwives in the region following the release of the figures, which show a 20 per cent jump on last year.

Deputy O’Sullivan said: “Minister Harris made a commitment that all graduates would be offered permanent positions in hospitals where posts had been sanctioned and I understand from graduates who have contacted me that there are unfilled sanctioned posts in Limerick, enough to retain all this year’s graduates.

“I am calling on the Minister to fulfil his promise.

“There is categorical evidence that we are understaffed and there is no doubt that patients are suffering as a result.”

Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said that August was another incredibly difficult month for patients, their families and the staff in University Hospital Limerick.

“It is completely unfair on the patients who are packed into the hospital, and incredibly tough for staff to carry out their duties.

“If this is the level of overcrowding in the middle of the summer, when the hospital should be at its quietest, I dread to think what the situation will be like in the middle of winter, with outbreaks of flu and other illnesses.

Mayor of Clare Cathal Crowe, who had contacted Minister Harris about the graduate hiring situation was told that hiring of staff is sanctioned “within hospital budget”.

The Minister said the HSE had put an embargo on recruitment until each Hospital Group brings forward a credible budget and one that deals with the high cost of hiring agency staff.

”We are currently preparing financial projections to year-end which will include provision for the retention of graduate nurses. I recognise the valuable role our graduate nurses perform in the health sector, and every effort will be made to accommodate requests for posts in specific hospitals on graduation.

“Unfortunately, it is not always possible for the HSE to accommodate all graduate nurses in their preferred locations,” Minister Harris added.

Concerning the high numbers on trolleys, a statement from the press office at UHL said that the hospital’s emergency department was one of the busiest in the country. During August there were 5,951 presentations at the department, marginally higher than the 5,897 patients who attended during the same month last year.

“Our emergency department is facing additional pressures due to issues around accessing transitional care and home care package funding, which, during August, led to increased delayed charges that were twice those recorded in August of 2018.

“On average there were 18 to 20 delayed discharges per week from UHL during August 2019, compared with the 8 to 10 per week recorded 12 months previously.

This is further compounded by the delayed discharges across the group – a total of 55 on Tuesday September 3 – which further limits the ability of the UL Hospitals Group to maximise the use of beds and relieve pressure on the Emergency Department at UHL.”

“We regret that any admitted patient experiences long waiting time in our emergency department for a bed to come available. This is not the level of service that UL Hospitals Group wishes to provide, and we apologise to patients, and their loved ones, who have experienced extended waiting times.

“We would like to reassure patients and their families that every patient in the emergency department receives expert medical care, and we are working to alleviate the situation. We acknowledge the work of our staff, and thank them for their continued dedication and commitment to patient care,” the statement concludes.