MANAGEMENT at University Hospital Limerick have accepted the findings of a damning report by the Health and Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) which found that the hospital’s overcrowded and understaffed emergency department posed a significant risk to patients.
UL Hospitals Group Chief Clinical Director Professor Brian Lenehan apologised to patients and families and acknowledged UHL’s responses to overcrowding were “not sufficient to meet the unprecedented increase in demand on our service”.
Professor Lenehan, said he acknowledged “that the measures in our escalation plan are not sufficient to meet the unprecedented increase in demand on our service”.
Prof Lenehan said UHL has fewer inpatient beds and fewer consultants and NCHDs to provide care than comparable hospitals, and serves a region with a higher frailty index and a city with a higher deprivation index.
He pointed out that the growth in demand for services at UHL since the Covid pandemic was disproportionate and exceptional compared to other hospitals and the people of the Mid West have fewer alternatives than elsewhere when it comes to accessing emergency care”.
Prof Lenehan said that while UHL had recently received “significant investment” to improve its infrastructure, the lack of bed capacity remains our primary constraint.
HIQA found the hospital to be non-compliant in three standards of patient care and only partially-compliant in one standard.
Inspectors found that ineffective patient flow and decreased inpatient bed capacity significantly contributed to overcrowding.
HIQA stated that it was not assured that the hospital had enacted measures to deal with these issues.
The authority said it escalated its concerns to the UL Hospitals Group as well as the HSE seeking assurances that the hospital and wider region would be effectively supported in addressing capacity deficits.
A spokesman for the hospitals group said it was awaiting a report from a HSE expert team which Health Minister Stephen Donnelly ordered to conduct a review of unscheduled care and emergency department management at UHL last April.
He said that this report will be a means of mitigating the risks to patient safety and addressing poor patient experiences in our emergency department as highlighted by HIQA.
UL Hospitals Group chief executive Collette Cowan has commissioned Deloitte to conduct an “external review of patient flow, through the emergency department.
Deloitte have also been commissioned to examine the use of resources, processes in place and identifying any constraints in hospital care.
The spokesman added that some staff were absent on the day of the inspection due to Covid-19.