UHL overcrowding streak hits 100 days for second time in less than a year

University Hospital Limerick

THE emergency department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) this week recorded 100 consecutive days as the country’s most overcrowded, a milestone the hospital has hit for a second time since last October.

The hospital’s longest streak on record currently stands at 158, set on January 2 this year. On Tuesday, there were 118 admitted patients waiting on trolleys and in overflow wards for a bed.

The disturbing new landmark comes at the CEO of the HSE, Bernard Gloster, was expecting to see the report on overcrowding at the hospital on Wednesday of this week.

Bernard Gloster said that the report, led by the former president of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, Fergal Hickey, is currently being finalised with recommendations.

A report on the death of teenager Aoife Johnston at University Hospital Limerick is also expected imminently, Mr Gloster said.

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The review by former Justice Frank Clarke was announced in December, but the timeframe was expanded to take account of shocking evidence heard at the inquest into her death.

“I know we put eight weeks on the timeframe at the start, I would still rather get the report right rather than quick. It is very near, that’s what the legal team tell me,” Mr Gloster said.

The latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) Trolley Watch count showed there were 47 admitted patients waiting for beds in the ED at UHL on Monday morning (June 17) with a further 52 patients on trolleys in overflow areas of wards.

The 99-person total marked UHL’s 100th day in a row as the country’s most overcrowded, according to INMO figures – which don’t take into account weekends or bank holidays.

Trolley numbers at UHL were sightly down on certain days in recent weeks – and well down on the record 150 waiting for trolleys set on February 7 this year – but the hospital was still well ahead of every other hospital in the country when it comes to admitted patients waiting for an in-hospital bed.

UHL had double the number of admitted patients waiting on trolleys for an in-hospital bed than any other hospital in the country last month.

In fact, one in every five of the 10,577 patients on trolleys countrywide in May was waiting for a bed in the chronically overcrowded Limerick hospital.

That’s nearly one quarter higher than the recorded numbers last year, when there were 1,857 people waiting for a bed in UHL in May.

Despite this, last month, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that the arrival of the crack team he sent into Limerick in recent weeks is already producing results.

Commenting on the figures at the time, INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that “the situation in the Mid West is of huge concern to our organisation”.

“Despite an expert team being in the hospital for the month of May, there was only six days where there was less than one hundred people on trolleys on the Dooradoyle campus.

“Despite winter being well and truly over, we are continuing to see an unacceptable number of people being treated on trolleys, chairs or in other inappropriate bed spaces in Irish hospitals this month.”

UL Hospitals Group, the body responsible for University Hospital Limerick, was asked for comment.