120 march in UHL protest: Storm Isha didn’t blow away anger over Limerick hospital

University Hospital Limerick

AROUND 120 people braved stinging rain and wind in Limerick City today in the face of Storm Isha to make their feelings known about the experiences patients are subjected to at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

In a protest organised by health campaigner Mike Daly, the gathered crowd marched from the Crescent Shopping Centre in Dooradoyle to the gates of UHL, demanding the reopening of the emergency departments (ED) in Nenagh, Ennis, and St John’s Hospitals, the removal of the recruitment ban, and an end to chronic overcrowding at UHL.

The protest came one year to the day since a crowd of 11,000 took to the streets of Limerick to protest conditions at UHL.

“We’re back here again a year on and nothing has changed. They need to know we’ll keep coming back until they do something to alleviate the overcrowding. Allegedly it’s killing people and it can’t be accepted,” Mr Daly told the Limerick Post.

“I call on the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to either open the A&Es or, may I suggest, a compulsory purchase of Bon Secours Hospital, formerly known as Barrington’s Hospital, to have a fully functional A&E at Barringtons.

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“Not only will that alleviate the overcrowding to normal levels, it will also sort out the beds problem at UHL,” Mr Daly claimed.

“They can make a compulsory purchase order based on the grounds of common good, that is a suggestion, one of many, but for the most part we’re calling for the reopening of the three A&Es at St John’s, Nenagh, and Ennis”.

Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, who attended the protest and spoke to the gathered crowd outside UHL, told the Limerick Post that “the number one issue in Limerick is when a loved one has to go into the emergency department and people are unfortunately dying because we don’t have capacity there”.

“The stats and figures will tell you that if you have a certain amount of people for 12 hours on a trolley, there will unfortunately be more deaths.

“Our emergency department is overwhelmed, we had over 21,000 people in 2023 on trolleys. This year already we have 1,200 on hospital trolleys, which is more than this time last year, and we’re looking at another year of disaster for the people of Limerick and the Mid West”.

Everyone attending the protest had their own reasons to be there.

“We’re on the back of 13 years bringing elderly parents to this hospital. And we lost our daughter, a qualified doctor, to New Zealand because the government can’t get their act together on the health service,” Christine Lynch from Shannon, who attended the protest with her husband Tom, told the Limerick Post.

“We’ve watched the hospital get gradually worse and worse,” she said. “Our daughter was inspired to become a doctor to help people because of her grandparents’ health.

“After she did her training in UHL she said there was no way she would work there. She left for New Zealand, not because of the money but because she said she couldn’t make a difference or help treat people properly with the way things are in UHL.

“She wanted to work somewhere she would make a difference”.

Tom Lynch pointed out that all of the students who shared accommodation with his daughter during her studies have also emigrated.

“Four of them, all gone. We’re educating our doctors to go away and work anywhere else,” he said.

Christine said that her mother’s experiences in UHL, particularly the ED, have made her dread having to go to the Dooradoyle hospital.

“She begs me to drive her to Galway instead and the experience there is massively different.”

Gerard Quinn from Ballinacurra Weston has had plenty of experience of the hospital since his wife, Colette (53), suffered a massive heart attack two years ago.

“I’m here because I see what people are going through,” he said.

“In some ways we’re lucky because she is a cardiac patient. Whenever we come, she’s looked after quickly. But even so, we had to wait for an hour and 10 minutes for an ambulance last time. She had all the symptoms of a heart attack but it still took that long for an ambulance to get to us. It’s a 10 minute journey.

“I rang four times and said I could bring her in by car – that it would be faster – but every time they warned us against moving her.

“The whole system is broken”.

All three agreed that the hospital will be the biggest issue on doorsteps in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary in the coming elections.

Eleanor Naughton was one of a large group of Shannon people who came to support the protest.  She said she was there because of the tragedy of Aoife Johnston, the local teenager who developed sepsis and died after 12 hours on a trolley in the ED in December 2022.

“We’re here in solidarity with that family from Shannon. Nothing has changed in the hospital since that young woman died. It’s in the news every day, the number of people who are on trolleys. There are far too many people in the Mid West for the hospital to cope with. We have the worst hospital in the country.”

Another woman who joined the protest, and asked not to be named, signed herself out after nearly five days on a trolley in the ED recently.

“The conditions are horrendous. There’s no communication from the staff, you’re just left there. I was terrified for my life. That’s how bad it is.”