Patient overcrowding surges at Limerick hospital, as numbers of patients with COVID falls sharply

University Hospital Limerick

The number of Coronavirus patients has reduced considerably at University Hospital Limerick, as has the numbers of staff sidelined due to the virus, however patient overcrowding at the hospital has surged in recent days.

The UL Hospitals Group, which operates University Hospital Limerick (UHL); University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL); St John’s Hospital, Limerick; Croom Orthopeadic Hospital, Limerick; Ennis hospital; Nenagh Hospital, provided figures showing that up to 48 covid patients were being treated across their six sites in the midwest region.

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Daily infection levels across the region stood at around 238, on January 12th last, while on January 14th last there were 150 covid cases recorded at University Hospital Limerick, alone.

When asked how many Covid-19 patients were presently in beds across the group’s six hospitals, a spokesman replied: “At 8pm on Monday February 22nd, there were 38 COVID-19 patients in UHL; five in Ennis; fewer than five in UMHL; zero in Croom, St John’s Hospital, and Nenagh”.

The spokesman said management were “considering the redesignation of COVID capacity at UHL in order to free up space for the treatment of patients with non-COVID conditions”, and that “it is important to note that while we measure COVID-19 patient numbers, we also have a number of patients who have entered a recovery stage post-COVID that requires acute ongoing care”.

Figures supplied by the group also show that the number of healthcare staff sidelined by the virus, either confirmed cases or staff considered close contacts, had also fallen significantly in the past month, a reduction from 574 on January 14th to 115 presently.

A total of 9,247 first dose vaccinations and 4,845 second dose vaccinations have been administered to frontline healthcare workers from the UL Hospitals Group, Mid West Community Healthcare, and National Ambulance Service, as well as residents and staff of long-term residential care facilities in the region.

According to HSE figures, there are five Critical Care beds available for the entire Midwest region, at University Hospital Limerick, and seven patients in the 28-bed unit were being treated for COVID-19.

While Covid cases reduced across the group, the number of patients on hospital trolleys surged.

From Monday through to Wednesday, UHL was the most overcrowded hospital with 81, 77, and 67, patients on trolleys in the hospital’s Emergency Department and on wards.

The INMO stated that despite UHL opening around 100 beds over the last year, “extreme overcrowding” remains there.

“INMO members report a massive number of patents, with serious problems in getting enough staff to care for them. Our members are exhausted and frustrated, this is a dangerous situation at the best of times, but it is much more so during a pandemic,” it added.

In response, a UL Hospitals spokesman said UHL was experiencing “considerable demand for inpatient beds” from both “an increased number of people infected with (Covid-19)” as well as from “a rising number of non-COVID patients whose conditions have been complicated due to delays in seeking medical treatment”.

Presentations at the 24-hour Limerick ED “have exceeded 200 per day” over the past week.

Despite opening extra beds, UHL’s “overall capacity continues to be pressured not just by the challenges presented by the threat of the disease, but also by the physical distancing guidelines that we must continue to adhere to even while the programme to vaccinate us against COVID-19 rolls out”, the spokesman said.

They said there was also extra pressure on bed capacity due to the group being “constrained in effecting inter-hospital transfers, discharges to community settings and discharges home, in the context of significant community transmission in the Midwest and multiple outbreaks in healthcare settings across the region”.