Limerick hospital sets new overcrowding record

Phil Ni Sheaghdha
INMO secretary general Phil Ni Sheaghdha

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick is by far the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland with 15,322 patients left waiting on trolleys in the emergency department, wards and corridors over the first ten months of the year.

Latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show the overall number of patients left without beds in all Irish hospitals reached 100,195 by November 8.

It is the earliest that this high number of admitted patients has ever been recorded, with Limerick topping the list at 15,322, followed by Cork University Hospital (10,107), Sligo University Hospital (6,919) and St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin (6,359).

The INMO  has called for a four-pronged approach to tackle the  crisis. This would involve the cancellation of non-urgent elective care in public hospitals and use of private hospitals for this work; the introduction of staff retention measures; legislation to underpin the implementation of the safe staffing and skill mix framework as well as prioritisation of funding for long term care in the community.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said it was not good enough that nurses and patients are expected to accept the current overcrowding figures as normal.

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“Senior figures in the health service have warned the Irish public that waiting over 24 hours to be admitted to hospital is the new normal. In no other country would this level of indignity be accepted,” she declared.

“Our members are working incredibly hard but it is clear that our public health service can no longer provide both emergency care and elective care.

“To that end, we are calling for all non-urgent elective care in public hospitals to be curtailed. Private hospitals must be now brought on the pitch to provide elective care until the end of March 2023 at the very least.

“We know that many nurses and midwives are signalling their intention to leave the profession or go abroad to work in safer conditions. Directors of Nursing and Midwifery in hospitals are telling us how incredibly difficult it is to recruit but also retain staff, particularly in large hospitals. We are now calling on the Government to deal with this unsafe, unacceptable and inhumane situation.

“While it is welcome that safe staffing is prioritised in the winter plan, we know that safe staffing is not being met in many hospitals. A number of hospitals have insufficient rosters and inappropriate skill mix to provide safe care.

“We do not need more pronouncements of increasing bed capacity, which is a meaningless endeavour if you do not have the staff to ensure that these beds can be opened safely. The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive cannot afford to be passive.

“Between overcrowding and retention of nurses, the situation is worsening every day. Every possible measure that can be taken in the coming days and weeks must be taken,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha concluded.