‘Rapid build’ beds at University Hospital Limerick won’t be delivered until December

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly recently visited the site of the long-awaited 96-bed block at UHL. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

A SO-CALLED “rapid build” unit of 16 beds that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly pledged to help tackle chronic overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) will not be in place until at least December 2024, the UL Hospitals Group (ULHG) have confirmed.

A reliable source within the Department of Health said a 16-bed modular ‘drop-in’ unit was expected to come on stream in October this year, however ULHG has said it is not expected to open until the end of the year.

Responding to a query asking when the additional 16 acute rapid-build hospital beds would be in place at UHL, ULHG replied: “16 Bed Rapid Build Unit UHL: December 2024.”

In response to queries about opening dates for 50 step down beds in Nenagh, County Tipperary, to improve patient flow at UHL, which were expected to open in June or July, the group said these were not expected until the third quarter of 2024.

It said 20 additional step-down beds in County Clare pledged by Minister Donnelly and HSE boss Bernard Gloster were also expected to open in Q3, 2024.

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The ULHG said a “temporary use” of St Conlon’s Community Nursing Unit in Nenagh “as a step down facility will greatly support patient flow across the region, in particular for older people”.

The group said the arrangement to temporarily use the Nenagh CNU would continue “pending the completion of the first of two new 96-bed blocks for UHL scheduled to be completed in early 2025”.

The starting date for the proposed second 96-bed block at UHL is not yet known.

In respect of the 50 Nenagh beds, the ULHG added: “St Conlon’s is registered with HIQA and will continue to provide care services at its current location for the interim period.”

“The HSE has every intention and is fully committed of then moving to the long-term use of the new CNU to replace St Conlon’s”.

HSE chief executive Bernard Gloster said on April 4 that overcrowding at UHL was a major challenge for the HSE, and warned that “all of the capacity that we add here, including the 50 beds in Nenagh, the 20 beds in Clare, and the 16 dropped down to (UHL) will come to nothing if equally we don’t change how we do our business over the seven days of the week”.

Minister Donnelly said when he visited UHL on April 3 last he found staff were “burnt out” and nurses and non-consultant hospital doctors were asking for senior clinical decision-makers to be more present at the hospital to help improve patient flow and speed up patient discharges.

Minister Donnelly said the ULHG had “one of the lowest uptakes of the new Public-Only Consultant Contract and that “the level of weekend (patient) discharge is not where it needs to be”.

Colette Cowan, chief executive of the ULHG, told a recent meeting of the Regional Health Forum West that only 28 per cent of emergency medicine consultants employed by ULHG had signed up to the POCC, which could see consultants being asked to work an extra five hours on Saturday and an extra two hours on weekdays.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation published figures today showing there were 105 patients on trolleys at UHL today.