Willie’s wishlist: Demands made to Donnelly to solve crisis at University Hospital Limerick

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea.

IN the aftermath of the medical misadventure verdict in the death of 16-year-old Aoife Johnston, Limerick TD Willie O’Dea has written to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly demanding he alleviate ongoing severe pressure on University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

The Fianna Fáil TD called on Minister Donnelly to do everything in his power to prevent further unnecessary deaths and improve “Dickensian and inhumane” conditions at the chronically overcrowded UHL.

Among Deputy O’Dea’s demands for the Minister were a new bed block at UHL, a new surgical hub (both of which have already been promised by government), a new bed block at St John’s Hospital, the 24-hour opening of local injury units, and an elective-only hospital in the region.

During the inquest into Ms Johnston’s death at UHL, one doctor described the conditions at the hospital’s emergency department as being a “death trap” both on the night the Shannon schoolgirl died and in present day.

“On a regular basis, one in three patients on hospital trolleys in this country is attending University Hospital Limerick. That means there are often more people on trolleys in Limerick than in all of the Dublin hospitals combined,” Deputy O’Dea said in his letter to the Minister.

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“This has given rise to conditions in the hospital that are Dickensian and inhumane from the point of view of patients and staff.”

Referring to a Private Members Motion in the Dáil last May regarding proposals to open injury units at St John’s, Ennis, and Nenagh hospitals on a 24-hour basis, he asked “when will this happen?”

He also called for construction workers to labour on weekends on the new 96-bed block currently underway at UHL to help accelerate the completion date.

He called for the fast-tracking of a surgical hub “at any location in Limerick City” to allow UHL to perform day and routine procedures off-site. A surgical hub is already hoped for the former Scoil Carmel in Limerick City, but has been stalled on account of planning issues.

Deputy O’Dea also called for a new bed block at St John’s Hospital in the city, to “improve the beds-to-population ratio in the Mid West, which is the worst in the country by some distance”.

He concluded his letter by asking if the Minister will “include Limerick alongside the locations already earmarked for the delivery of elective only hospitals”, which he says would help UHL “deal with scheduled care rather than unscheduled care”.