HSE team coming to terms with Limerick hospital overcrowding

Mary Fogarty, INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations

THE HSE team assigned to manage the overcrowding crisis at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) last May has already significantly reduced waiting times and improved patient services at the regional hospital.

That’s according to Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Assistant Director of Industrial Relations Mary Fogarty who said there are definite signs of improvement during the time the special Performance Management Improvements team has been in place.

The team was sent in by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to look at why UHL consistently recorded the highest numbers of admitted patients on trolleys, waiting for in-hospital beds.

A record 126 patients were on trolleys on corridors at UHL on Thursday, April 21 and at least 649 patients were crammed along corridors and wards waiting for beds in the week before the HSE team’s arrival.

The figures were, in reality, higher as trolley statistics are not reported during weekends, which is usually the busiest period at the hospital.

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However, in recent weeks the number of patients on trolleys in the emergency department at UHL have been significantly down on the numbers recorded in the INMO’s Trolley Watch earlier in the year.

In fact UHL has been in the unusual position of not topping the list of Irish hospitals with most patients waiting on trolleys.

Ms Fogarty said that the influence of the HSE management team “appears to be effecting improvement and this needs to be continued.”

The INMO official also sounded a note of caution over the new 96-bed extension at UHL when she stated that recruiting the necessary staff for the new beds will be a challenge.

Work on the €90 million four-storey ward block is due to start in October with a completion date of September 2024.

“There has to be a focus on recruitment of staff, there is a national shortage. It will be a challenge to get the consultants, doctors, and nurses that are needed,” Ms Fogarty told the Limerick Post. 

This is in contrast with the opinion of UL Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan who, earlier this week, said that the development would help attract and retain staff.