Limerick mayoral candidate calls for 200-year-old private hospital to be repurposed as emergency department in memory of Aoife Johnston

The Barrington's building has gone on sale for €12.5million.

THE State should immediately purchase the for-sale 200-year-old Barrington’s private hospital in Limerick and repurpose it as an additional public emergency department unit for the region.

That’s according to John Moran, former Finance Department Secretary General and candidate in Limerick’s inaugural directly-elected mayoral election on June 7.

Mr Moran said the repurposed emergency department (ED) should be named in memory of Aoife Johnston, the 16-year-old girl who died at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) amidst chronic patient overcrowding and systemic failures in her medical care in December 2022.

Mr Moran, who has spoken publicly of his own “unsatisfactory experiences” with UHL when he previously received a diagnoses of bowel cancer, which he has since recovered from, said: “As the whole country has seen from recent tragic events, Limerick needs this facility badly, and straight away – not in the many months and years some officials say it will take to do it elsewhere.”

“I am proposing that, once purchased, it be renamed ‘Barringtons Hospital – Aoife Johnston A&E’ as a daily reminder that we have to do better to protect our residents, provided of course that Aoife’s family would be happy with that.”

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The Johnston family have been asked for comment on the proposal through their solicitor, who is acting for them in a high court action against the HSE over Aoife’s death.

The confirmation of the hospital’s sale came this morning (Wednesday), originally built in 1829 on plans by architect Frederick Darley, with a price tag of €12.5million.

The fully-operational, 53-bed hospital has been operating since 2017 under the ownership of Bon Secours Health System, which is soon to relocate operations to its new hospital facility at Ballysimon.

While the building could also be turned into a hotel or other private facility, Mr Moran said the State should immediately contract existing Bons Secours staff to run it as an ED until it could be taken over by the HSE.

He said the facility should operate in tandem with the emergency department at UHL, which UHL emergency medicine consultant Dr Jim Gray described as a “death trap” at Aoife Johnston’s inquest held at Limerick Coroner’s Court last week.

Ms Johnston, from Shannon, County Clare, was referred to the ED at UHL by a GP along with a letter the doctor wrote querying sepsis, a life threatening infection.

Hospital protocols require sepsis patients be examined by a doctor within 10-15 minutes, however it was an hour and 15 minutes before Aoife was initially examined by a triage nurse and she was not examined by a doctor, despite nurses requesting this, for over 12 hours.

It was 15 hours and 15 minutes before staff gave Ms Johnston life-saving antibiotics, however her inquest heard it was too late and she died in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after she deteriorated beyond repair.

“There were systemic failures, there were missed opportunities, and there were communication breakdowns throughout. Aoife should have been treated in a timely manner,” Mr McNamara said in his summing up at her inquest.

Limerick Coroner John McNamara returned a verdict of medical misadventure and recommended several measures to help ease overcrowding at UHL. He also endorsed the Hamilton Report which recommended there be a zero tolerance to trollies in corridors in the ED at UHL.

Yesterday the Department of Health confirmed that a HSE support team would immediately deployed at UHL in an attempt to prioritise measures aimed at easing overcrowding and pressures in the hospital’s ED.

John Moran said he is preparing to publish a new health policy for Limerick, entitled ‘A More Healthy Limerick’ in advance of the June 7 mayoral vote.