IN November 2020, Charlotte Keane lay on a trolley in excruciating pain for two days in the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
Three years later, very little has changed at UHL, where a “major internal incident” of overcrowding was declared by management last month.
The UL Hospitals Group is managing surge beds in other hospitals in the region as well as expediting discharges and introducing new ambulance protocols, but the patient surge has not been stemmed.
“I’ve spent two days on a trolley while I had kidney stones. You are coming to UHL when you are at your worst. You’re really not well, you’re begging for help and it’s just not been given,” Ms Keane said as she participated in a protest outside UHL while Taoiseach Leo Varadkar inspected the cramped conditions inside.
“Physically, I was already very ill, so I was getting no rest. You have no privacy if you need to go to the toilet. It’s unsanitary, you just have no dignity, you have no rest, it’s just horrendous,” she explained.
“You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. It’s horrendous, it’s not fair and it needs to change,” the Janesboro woman declared.
“I’m doing this for my children. I don’t want them to die on a trolley, to have a long waiting time when they come to UHL. We can’t help people who have gone before and have been failed by the system.
“But we can stand up now and be counted and make change happen for our children.”
As the Taoiseach met UHL management and relatives of patients who died on trolleys during periods of overcrowding, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) was reporting that 85 patients were waited for beds, making UHL the most overcrowded hospital in the country.
The UL Hospital’s Group has asked government for funding for two 96-bed units to alleviate pressure on the emergency department. One of the units is currently under construction, the other has yet to be given planning.
Members of the Mid-West Hospital Campaign group protested outside the hospital calling for Accident and Emergency units to be reopened in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s hospitals to help ease overcrowding at UHL.
The Ennis and Nenagh units were closed and reconfigured to UHL in 2009.
The €24 million Limerick emergency department opened in 2017, to cater for a maximum of 190 patients, although it regularly treats more than 220 patients a day.