Limerick hospital protesters send early message to Taoiseach

"We are not here for chit-chat": Mid West Hospital Campaign chairperson Noleen Moran with campaign members outside King John's Castle this morning. Photo: Adam Leahy.

IN ADVANCE of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s visit to University Hospital Limerick (UHL), protesters gathered outside one of Limerick’s most iconic landmarks this morning to send a clear message to the Fine Gael leader.

Members of the Mid West Hospital Campaign (MWHC) gathered outside King John’s Castle to lower a 12-foot banner emblazoned with the words ‘re-open our A&Es’, a pointed message about the Nenagh, Ennis, and St John’s emergency departments that have been closed since 2009 and 2013 respectively.

Asked about the purpose of the protest, MWHC chairperson Noleen Moran said: “We know Leo Varadkar will be arriving in a little while, so we’re sending a very clear message to him that it’s the reopening of the A&Es in this area that we’re calling for – in Ennis, Nenagh, and St John’s.”

“The overcrowding in University Hospital Limerick is as a result of the closure of those emergency departments, we’re the only hospital group in the region that only has one emergency department to cater for over 390,000 people.”

“Every other hospital group in the country has more emergency departments to support the main hospital, and that has been taken away from us. As a result of this we have massive overcrowding, we have unnecessary deaths, and we have people not getting the care that they deserve when they go into the hospital.”

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Members of the MWHC will meet with Mr Varadkar after his visit to UHL today in the hope of communicating their message to him in person.

When asked what message the group wish to convey, Ms Moran said the campaign wished him to know that “we hold him responsible for the Government policy that’s failing the people here”.

“We want him to hear from the people who have been impacted directly. We want them to hear their stories and to understand that the impact that his policy is having on this area. That is the only way we’re going to get change here. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve from the meeting today.”

“We are not just about having a chit chat around this. We want to see actions follow from that as well,” the campaign chairperson added.

Members of the Mid West Hospital Campaign lowered a 12-foot banner below King John’s Castle this morning in advance of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s visit to University Hospital Limerick. Photo: Adam Leahy.

The group also held a public protest outside the chronically overcrowded Limerick hospital this morning between 11.30 and 12.30 in advance of the Fine Gael leader’s visit, before a small delegation from the group will meet with Deputy Varadkar later this afternoon.

University Hospital Limerick was the most overcrowded in the country again this morning, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s Trolley Watch. The hospital saw 85 patients waiting for valuable bedspace (40 in UHL’s emergency department, 45 on trolleys elsewhere).

This marks the hospital’s fourteenth consecutive weekday as the country’s most overcrowded hospital, according to figures gathered by the Limerick Post.