THE number of patients treated on trolleys while waiting for a bed at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has already exceeded the total number for 2021, with four months of the year still to go.
And the situation could deteriorate even further with the remaining months being the busiest as winter viruses and chest ailments affect older and vulnerable patients.
According to Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, the trolley count so far this year stands at 12,135 patients. For the full year in 2021, that figure was 12,106.
He has called on the government to do more to assist staff and patients at UHL.
“The staff and patients are having to function in a cramped environment conducive to the spread of disease. The staff and patients at UHL deserve better.
“Our patients deserve the dignity of not being discarded in a corridor for hours on end and our hospital staff deserve the respect of operating in a less hazardous environment.”
He said that while the news that building is to start on a new 96-bed unit, “the reality is that this will only add 48 additional beds to the current stock”.
“The University Hospital Group have acknowledged that they have the lowest in-patient bed stock when benchmarked against other Model 4 Hospitals and that an additional 200 beds are required to bring it in line with the national average.
“There is no plan from the HSE or Government to address the crisis at UHL. 49 new beds, which are welcome, is way below what’s needed.”
He added that the emergency department at UHL doesn’t have the capacity to cater for all presentations and this has a knock-on effect across the hospital and compounds the trolley crisis.
“The hospital operates in a state of near perpetual crisis. The emergency department was a new purpose-built unit which opened in 2017 with 49 single treatment examination cubicles. With 76,473 people presenting at the emergency department last year, the unit does not have the capacity to support the number of presentations that it receives. “
In response to the Deputy’s remarks, a spokesman for the UL Hospitals Group said “The emergency department at UHL has been seeing record numbers of attendances in recent months and this has contributed to long wait times for many patients. We apologise to patients, particularly frail elderly patients, who face long wait times for a hospital bed.
“This increase in demand on UHL has contributed negatively to patient experience. We are working hard to address this. Together with the HSE national support team and with colleagues in HSE Mid West Community Healthcare, we continue to work on improving patient flow, integrated care pathways and hospital avoidance. There has been a reduction in recent weeks of the numbers of admitted patients waiting for an inpatient bed.
“In addition, we continue to make progress on addressing the bed capacity deficits in the region. 98 inpatient beds have been added at UHL since the start of the pandemic and work is expected to commence on the new 96-bed block in October.
“It is our belief that the MidWest also needs an elective hospital. We urge stakeholders across the region to come together to ensure this happens. High volumes of emergency admissions at UHL have led to elective work being curtailed with increasing frequency.
“An elective hospital for the region will ensure a level of public hospital care that the people of the Mid-West deserve, into the future, with an equal focus on efficient delivery of scheduled and unscheduled care.
‘Recruitment of additional medical, nursing and allied health staff remains a priority for the Group. Since December 2021, we have increased the number of whole-time equivalent staff across our group by at UHL by 503 (16%). This includes an increase of 209 WTE nursing and midwifery staff (19%).