‘So angry’: Limerick Labour councillor slams care system at UHL as 87-year-old grandfather languishes on trolley for five days

Labour councillor Conor Sheehan with grandfather Jeremiah 'Jerry' Mullins.

A LIMERICK councillor has described how his 87-year-old grandfather languished on a trolley at University Hospital Limerick’s chronically overcrowded emergency department today (January 22) for a fifth day in a row.

Labour councillor Conor Sheehan said he was “at the end of my tether” as his “fed up” grandfather, Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Mullins, was being “carted around the emergency department” (ED) while stressed staff tried to care for a record 132 patients on trolleys.

“I am so angry I could burst. Every year it’s the same story yet nothing ever changes,” Mr Sheahan stated in a post on X (formerly Twitter), highlighting persistent patient overcrowding at UHL.

“132 people on trolleys in @ULHospitals, including my 87-year-old grandad there since Thursday, moved several times and is on a corridor at the age of 87 in A&E.”

Cllr Sheehan added that his grandfather was with “seven elderly people on the same corridor. He is frail and confused. This is a complete failure by Government.”

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The UL Hospitals Group replied to Mr Sheehan’s online post, saying “we apologise that this is your experience. Can you please DM us with more information so we can help further. Thank you.”

Marie McMahon, whose husband Tommy died in UHL in 2018 after spending 36 hours on a trolley with stroke-like symptoms, replied to the hospital group’s post that its response was “insensitive, disrespectful to the other 131 people counted who may have no one to speak for them publicly. Unfortunately for those of us who have to live in Clare Limerick and North Tipperary, not unexpected.”

‘Bewildered and frustrated’

When contacted by the Limerick Post, Mr Sheehan said he brought his grandfather into UHL at around 3pm last Thursday (January 18) with a severe leg infection, but he was still not admitted to a ward today – five days later.

Mr Sheehan says he was shocked that a patient, just shy of 90-years of age, would be on a trolley in a corridor of the ED amidst record overcrowding, five days into his hospital stay.

“There were supposed to more timely pathways for elderly patients out of ED”, and this, in his opinion, needed to be “improved” upon.

Mr Sheehan said there was not enough health care assistants available to monitor Mr Mullins throughout his stay while his family were not with him.

“I’m so bewildered and frustrated by the whole situation. Over the last few days while I’ve been out in UHL, I’ve been hearing the same story from everybody out there,” said Mr Sheehan.

“I couldn’t get a straight answer for ages off of anybody as to whether they were going to admit him or not, and I waited with him until 2am/3am on Friday.

“They put him down then to an area known as the Clinical Decision Unit, but his infection worsened so he got confused and so the situation got worse.

“We were asked on Saturday could we come in because he was very confused and agitated and they had nobody to monitor him. My dad spent the whole of Saturday with him and eventually they got a healthcare assistant to spend the night with him. Then he got moved back again to Zone B (emergency department), and he’s still on a trolley.”

“He has literally being travelling around the A&E on this trolley for the past five days.”

Mr Sheehan said his grandfather’s leg infection had improved as he was being treated with an intravenous antibiotic.

Government needs to ‘get real’

Describing inside the overcrowded ED, Cllr Sheehan said: “My granddad was initially getting the IV in a corridor and there was a man behind him very unwell and very distressed, and I couldn’t even move without being in the way of somebody or something.”

Mr Sheehan the government needs to “get real” and address the chronic overcrowding problem in Limerick.

“The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have both been the Minister for Health during the past 20 years and they both know what the situation is. This just seems to have been accepted as a fait accompli that overcrowding is bad in Limerick.”

A representative for UHL said they would look into the matter, but generally do not comment on individual cases.

A general statement provided by the hospital in response to the overcrowding said that “University Hospital Limerick remains extremely busy this Monday, with attendances above average over the weekend and a high number of inpatients associated with the recent surge in winter respiratory illnesses”.

“Demand for inpatient beds is exceptionally high and includes patients waiting in our emergency department, in designated bed spaces in our assessment units and surge areas, as well as patients on trolleys on our inpatient wards.

“The level of overcrowding is far in excess of where we want to be, and we apologise to every one of our patients who faces a long wait time for an inpatient bed.

“We are following our escalation framework to maximise patient flow and create additional capacity to manage the consistently high levels of activity in the hospital.”

The statement said that ongoing measures at UHL include opening surge capacity across all sites; transferring patients on trolleys to inpatient wards; additional ward rounds by medical teams to expedite discharges or identify patients suitable for transfer to Ennis, Nenagh, and St John’s Hospitals; and working closely with the HSE Mid West Community Healthcare in order to expedite discharges.

Elective activity is also being reviewed on a daily basis in UHL and across our sites, the statement said.