Limerick hospital bosses deny claims that patients were hidden

Limerick City North People Before Profit representative Ruairí Fahy.

CLAIMS that office staff provided medical checks on patients and there was a mass clear out of the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick because of a threatened inspection from HIQA have been categorically denied by management.

In a statement to the Limerick Post, Ruairí Fahy, People Before Profit representative for Limerick City North, said last week that he had “heard from workers in the hospital of the cynical efforts called for by senior management to hide just how dangerous the emergency department had become.

He said this involved turning away patients in need of urgent care to other hospitals, pushing trolleys into already overcrowded wards, office staff helping to feed patients, performing paperwork and checking patient vital signs”.

“In all, the workers were tasked with clearing up to 150 patients from the emergency department into other wards. All of this impromptu reassignment of staff was done at the expense of other departments, while putting additional pressure on wards that received the new patients,” Mr Fahy claimed.

When asked by the Limerick Post to comment on the allegations, a hospital spokesman said that “opening surge capacity to move admitted patients from the emergency department and de-escalate pressure within the department is something that’s always done as part of our Escalation Plan at times when the volume of emergency presentations exceeds capacity to deliver care optimally.”

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However the spokesman confirmed that there was no recent inspection of the emergency department by HIQA.

“Qualified and registered nurses, who are now working in management roles, last Monday helped to attend to patients’ personal care needs. We are grateful to these staff and to all staff who have responded to this crisis. The only staff checking patient vitals in our hospitals are qualified clinical staff,” the spokesman added on the allegations of “office staff” being asked to care for patients.

Addressing claims that patients in need of care were turned away from the emergency department, the spokesman said: “As part of the HSE’s operational contingency planning arrangements, Hospital Groups and the National Ambulance Service (NAS) have procedures in place to temporarily divert some patients to other acute hospitals to support an acute hospital that may be experiencing extreme levels of demand.”

“On the evening of Monday January 2, UL Hospitals Group requested that NAS activate those arrangements for a number of hours to support University Hospital Limerick’s response to the major incident incident declared that day.

“Where these procedures are activated, non-critical patients are diverted to the closest alternative appropriate hospital.  The most critically ill patients, for example those with suspected heart attack, stroke and those that were medically unstable, continued to be conveyed to UHL during the time these arrangements were in place. Patients continued to self-present during this period,” the spokesman concluded.