A FORMER head of the HSE says that a new elective-only hospital is urgently needed in the Mid West because the University of Limerick Hospitals Group lacks the bed capacity to meet the needs of the population it serves.
University Hospital Limerick (UHL) recorded the highest trolley numbers of any hospital in the country since records began on two days last week, prompting calls for an independent review to be carried out.
In a surprise intervention, former HSE Director General Tony O’Brien warned that emergency action is required to deal with persistent and chronic overcrowding at the region’s main hospital.
In an interview with Clare FM, Mr O’Brien said that an elective-only hospital needs to be prioritised for the Mid West region, ahead of anywhere else in the country.
He said the situation that arose last week proved there is a shortage of 200 beds in the system and he warned that until bed stock is addressed, the problems will continue to persist.
Stating that there was good logic underpinning the reconfiguration of the Hospitals Group, which was completed before his time, he went on to say that it wasn’t followed through in terms of addressing what has been a historic deficit in the number of beds relative to the size of population served in the Mid West.
He believes that if the economic crash hadn’t happened, there would have been an increased investment in beds, which would have prevented some of the problems that arose in recent years.
“UHL lacks the capacity to do both emergency admissions and elective work and the logical solution is that it should have an elective-only hospital now.
“The Slaintecare report made recommendations for three elective hospitals which are going to Dublin, Cork and Galway.
“Just on pure maths, the region that needs that kind of bed investment most is the MidWest because relative to the size of its population compared to any other part of the country, it simply doesn’t have enough beds and the result of that is what we are seeing now in terms of overcrowding.
“There is a strong reason for people of the MidWest to be concerned that they are not getting their fair share of health service and I think there is a strong reason why public representatives in the MidWest should wonder why the MidWest isn’t designated for a new elective hospital.
“That new hospital could work as part of the UL Hospitals Group and probably correct most of the problems that we see. A simple and now undeniable fact is that unless something is done to bring that level of extra capacity to the hospital group in the near future, then the problems will get worse and not better.
An elective-only hospital would take at least two to three years to complete and, in the meantime, imaginative thinking would be needed to deal with the serious capacity issues.
He added that initiatives have been introduced to improve efficiency but “they’ve squeezed most of the juice they can out of those initiatives”.
“The fundamental problem is that there isn’t enough beds,” he concluded.