Minister’s information on Limerick hospital overcrowding not based in reality

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly

HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly is basing his views on overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick on figures ‘that have no basis in reality’.

During a debate in the Seanad on Wednesday, February 1, Minister Donnelly said there were eight patients on trolleys in UHL that morning.

“In the past week, the average has been about six. The team has responded well and we need to acknowledge that, he added.

However, figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) showed there were 78 people on trolleys in UHL on the morning of February 1.  In the week before that, there was between 44 and 65 patients waiting for an in-hospital bed.

INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations Mary Fogarty told the Limerick Post that the Minister’s figures “have no basis in reality”.

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“We were at the hospital on Thursday, February 2, and established that his figures are absolutely wrong. I have no idea where the Minister got the figures but there were 77 people on trolleys when we were there.”

“According to the INMO Trolley Watch figures, which counts the numbers of admitted patients on trolleys nationwide each morning, there were 78 patients on trolleys at UHL on the day the Minister spoke of”.

Ms Fogarty said the union was appraised of measures that have been put in place to try to keep patients, particularly elderly people, from having to come to the emergency department.

“These included Pathfinder and mobile diagnostics, which sees clinicians visiting patients at home or in nursing homes. We’re glad to see these measures being utilised but, on their own, they don’t solve the problem,” she said.

The Mid West Hospital Campaign (MWHC) also disagrees with the Minister’s figures.

“We don’t know where Stephen Donnelly got his trolley figures from that day but the MWHC takes its figures from the INMO Trolley Watch and we can assure him that his figures are wrong.

“UHL is and remains the most overcrowded hospital in the country this month,” said MWHC spokesperson Charlotte Keane.

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan, who contributed to the Seanad debate on February 1, quoted from research carried out by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine which concluded that waiting more than eight hours in an emergency department adds one additional death per every 67 patients.

“This means that it is likely that hundreds of unnecessary deaths have happened in UHL over recent years.

“What I am seeing here this evening is government politicians pretending to be in opposition. Every year, you have been in here you have voted for budgets that have continued to result in the chronic under-resourcing of UHL,” he added.