Limerick hospital set new overcrowding record in March

A doctor working in the overcrowded emergency department at UHL.

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick has set a new national record for overcrowding in the month of March.

And, it surpassed the hospital with the second highest monthly figure for patients  on trolleys by more than 500.

Figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) have revealed that University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has seen its worst March for patients waiting on trolleys since records began in 2006.

Across the last month, 2,080 patients were waiting on trolleys in the chronically overcrowded hospital’s emergency department, or on wards elsewhere, for an in-hospital bed.

This marks an 832 per cent increase on 2006, the year INMO Trolley Watch records began, which saw only 223 patients waiting on trolleys.

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It is a 125 per cent increase on this time one decade ago (924 patents), which in itself was an outlier at the time being bookended by 319 patients in 2012 and 499 in 2014.

It also marks a 522 per cent increase of patients waiting on trolleys in the 2020 lockdown year (334).

For the month of March, UHL has now been the most overcrowded hospital consistently since 2018.

According to the INMO’s figures, UHL surpassed the country’s second most overcrowded hospital across last month by some 500 patients (Cork University Hospital, 1,530).

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that the level of overcrowding “has been out of control and cannot be allowed to continue into the spring and summer months”.

“Our analysis on the success of the HSE’s Winter Plan, which is due to come to an end today, has shown that more people than ever have been on trolleys during the health service’s winter period (October-March) with just under 70,000 people on trolleys (nationally) during this period.

“It is time for the HSE and Department of Health to devise a multi-annual plan as to how we tackle overcrowding. It is clear that it is no longer just a winter overcrowding crisis but a year-long one.

“There must be a change in mindset in how we approach this overcrowding crisis across from senior decision-makers from hospital management to HSE senior management levels.”

This comes as 85 patients waited on trolleys across UHL today (Friday March 31), marking the 43rd consecutive weekday the Limerick hospital has been the most overcrowded nationally (INMO Trolley Watch figures are only tallied on weekdays).

It was also revealed by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association this morning that 1,252 hospital appointments and operations were cancelled throughout UHL in the month of January in response to ongoing emergency department overcrowding.