Work starts on new 96-bed unit at overcrowded Limerick hospital

Computer gererated image of the 96-bed unit at UHL

CONSTRUCTION work has started on a €90 million, 96-single bed patient block at University Hospital Limerick, as part of a plan to increase acute bed capacity at what is consistently the most overcrowded hospital in the country.

The UL Hospitals Group has confirmed that only half of the 96 beds will be additional beds, and the rest will replace beds in UHL’s old not for purpose nightingale wards.

There were 58 patients waiting for a bed at UHL today, including 33 on trolleys in the emergency department and 25 on trolleys on wards.

Last Summer a report published by the State’s health service watchdog, HIQA, stated that during an unannounced inspection at UHL it found the dignity and privacy of patients in the overcrowded emergency department was compromised.

The HIQA inspectors also found  that the hospital was understaffed which posed a significant risk to patient safety.

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Turning the sod on the site for the new unit on the UHL campus, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that it would be a “state of the art extension, representing a significant and much needed development for University Hospital Limerick and, more importantly, for the people of Limerick and the Mid West”.

Minister Donnelly added that the development “underlines the Government’s commitment to investing in modern, fit-for-purpose infrastructure that is critically important for the delivery of high quality, safe care across our health service”.

A statement from the UL Hospitals Group said that John Sisk & Son has been appointed as the main contractor for the project which is expected to take at least two years to complete. It will then be equipped and commissioned before opening to patients.

The new 9,800 square-metre block will be built over the existing Emergency Department and Dialysis Unit and will consist of 96 en-suite single rooms over four floors.

“Approximately half of the beds will be new beds for inpatients while the remainder will be replacement beds allowing the hospital to close or refurbish some of the more outdated inpatient accommodation on the site.

“This will allow for greater compliance with national guidelines and international best practice on infection prevention and control,” the statement added.

UL Hospitals Group chief executive Prof Colette Cowan said that since the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020, 98 single inpatient beds and ten new critical care beds had been opened at UHL.

“This has dramatically improved our ability to isolate patients and to protect many of the most vulnerable through the worst of the crisis,” she added.

However Prof Cowan warned that UHL is this year on course to see a record number of patients presenting at the emergency department and increasing capacity was fundamental to resolving chronic overcrowding at UHL.

She said the 96 bed block was “an important further step in addressing our under-capacity in the Mid West and would further reduce reliance on outdated nightingale wards”.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly turning the sod for the new 96 bed block at University Hospital Limerick, watched by University of Limerick Hospitals Group chief executive Prof Colette Cowan.

Minister Donnelly met with patients and staff in the overcrowded emergency department and the Intensive Care Unit at UHL.

He held meetings with hospital managers and non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) to implement a workforce planning strategy and to aid in the recruitment and retention of these staff.

The Minister also officially opened a 60-single bed block, and a 24-bed ward for haematology and oncology patients, that came on stream at UHL during the Covid-19 pandemic.