Patient overcrowding at near record levels at University Hospital Limerick today

University Hospital Limerick

PATIENT overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) reached almost record levels today (Monday March 4).

The hospital is the most overcrowded nationally with 143 patients on trolleys according to figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

According to INMO figures, there were 539 admitted patients waiting for beds across hospitals nationally this morning, including 398 patients waiting in emergency departments and 141 in wards. A significant number of these are in UHL.

The union has repeatedly said the overcrowding situation in hospitals is dangerous and a threat to patient safety.

The UL Hospitals Group has repeatedly apologised for long wait times for its patients to be seen by a doctor.

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Many in the Mid West region believe the overcrowding situation there is due to the reconfiguration of 24-hour Emergency Departments in Clare and north Tipperary to UHL in 2009.

A new ED was opened in 2017 at the hospital, which was renamed University Hospital Limerick (formerly Limerick Regional Hospital), at a cost of €24million.

The chief executive of the UL Hospital Group (ULHG), which runs UHL and several other sites in the region, Colette Cowan, has been on leave since last month.

Record patient overcrowding on UHL’s corridors and wards occurred on February 7 last, when 150 patients languished on trolleys there.

A number of local TDs including Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea, Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, and Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue have expressed a lack of confidence in the hospital management team.

Last December the appointment of a HSE official Sandra Broderick as chief executive of a new Mid West health authority, was fast-tracked by the head of the HSE Bernard Gloster.

Ms Broderick started in the role, which has oversight of hospitals in Limerick and surrounding counties as well as community services, nearly three months before the roll out of health authorities in other areas of the country.

Ms Broderick who now has responsibility for University of Limerick Hospital Group, HSE Mid West Community Healthcare and Mid West Public Health, will report directly to Mr Gloster.

There are currently three known live investigations into the deaths of patients at UHL in recent times.

An internal investigation into the death of Aoife Johnston (16) in 2022 has led to an independent enquiry by retired chief justice Frank Clarke.

Ms Johnston died from complications arising from sepsis after she had contracted meningitis and had waited for 12 hours on a trolley in UHL’s ED which was overcrowded on the day.

A HSE spokesperson issued a statement in respect of Ms Johnston’s death which included an apology “for the serious failings in the care” provided her.

Ms Johnston’s inquest is scheduled to take place over four days at the Limerick Coroner’s court next month.

Internal hospital reviews have also recently been undertaken by the ULHG into the sudden deaths of another 16-year old girl in January and a 33-year old mother-to-be in February.

Responding to queries about recent sudden deaths at UHL, the HSE asked for “commentators to not jump to conclusions” about “recent cases at UHL”, and “to respect the dignity of those who have died, the privacy of their grieving families and the dedication of our staff who come to work each day in the spirit of professionalism and care”.

It said such reviews were “normal HSE practice where a sudden death occurs in our care” and “will inform any future actions”, however no further information to date has been provided in relation to the incidents.