Hospital CEO apologises to patients in front of Joint Oireachtas Health Committee

UL Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan

THE Chief Executive Officer of the University of Limerick Hospitals Group (UHLG) has apologised before a Dáil committee for the “distress and the lack of dignity and privacy” for patients lying on trolleys in the hospitals’ Emergency Department (ED).

The hospital’s Chief Clinical Director also said that the problems with long waits for beds and overcrowding arise from “mathematics”, with just one ED and too few hospital beds to serve a massive catchment area.

Professor Colette Cowan, ULHG CEO, told the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee that it was not the care environment the hospital group wanted to provide for their patients.

She said: “I apologise for the distress and the lack of dignity and privacy experienced by far too many patients seeking to access care in UHL over several years and in particular over the last 18 months.” 

Prof Cowan and Professor Brian Lenehan, Chief Clinical Director of the UHL Group, were before the Committee to respond to a report from health watchdog Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA), which published a report last June on foot of an inspection of the ED that said massive overcrowding at the facility put patients at risk.

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The CEO outlined the challenges facing the hospital, pointing out that last year the ED dealt with a record 76,473 patients.

Prof Cowan said that the hospital’s 530 inpatient beds is not adequate to cope with the increasing demand on services and while construction of a new 96-bed block is about to get underway, there will still be a shortfall of 87 beds.

Professor Brian Lenehan said that UHL was the only ED serving a population of 400,000 people.

“It’s mathematics,” he told the Committee.

The CEO also made a plea for an elective hospital for the city.