Taoiseach expresses ‘disappointment and concern’ over continued overcrowding at UHL

Taoiseach Simon Harris.

THERE is “disappointment and concern” among government that continued investment into University Hospital Limerick (UHL) isn’t doing enough to ease overcrowding pressures on the Limerick facility.

That’s according to newly-appointed Taoiseach Simon Harris who was in Limerick on Friday evening (April 12) to launch Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler’s campaign in the race to become Limerick’s first directly-elected mayor.

Speaking to the Limerick Post at the campaign launch at Limerick Racecourse, the Taoiseach said there is “deep concern” that significant investment in UHL hasn’t had the desired effect when it comes to alleviating pressure on the chronically overcrowded hospital.

UHL’s annual budget now stands at €383million and staff numbers have increased by over 1,000, with steps taken to increase bed capacity too, however government officials are still concerned that this hasn’t resulted in improvements in overcrowding.

I am conscious that capacity and bed capacity is a real constraint,” the Taoiseach said.

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“However, I must express, and I mean this sincerely, a level of deep concern that despite the very significant additional investment, beds, staff, millions, we haven’t seen the level of improvement that we’d expect to see.”

The Taoiseach went on to say that he “accepts fully” that bed capacity has been an issue in Limerick in recent years, and that the reconfiguration of the health service in the Mid West “did leave this region short of bed capacity”.

But I am disappointed and concerned that despite the levels of investment, we haven’t seen the improvement in patient care and patient wait times that we’d expect to see,” Mr Harris told reporters.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly visited UHL earlier this month and called for consultants to sign up to the Public Only Consultant Contract, which would see them work longer hours, including evenings and weekends to help with weekend patient discharges.

Speaking on Friday evening, Mr Harris said that the level of uptake to new consultant contracts in Limerick is “extremely low”.

When asked by the Limerick Post if he had faith in the management of UHL to oversee the level of investment handed down by government, the Taoiseach said it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to comment on any individual working within the public service.

I have faith in the Health Service Executive, I have faith in the people working in Limerick, but I do expect to see results. I do expect to see results, so does the HSE, so does the Minister for Health, and I know he’s very closely monitoring the situation, as he should,” he concluded.