Health Minister Makes Unannounced Visit To UHL

University Hospital Limerick emergency department

Health Minister Simon Harris has made an unannounced visit to University Hospital Limerick today.

The Minister met with staff and patients and visited the Emergency Department as well as the acute medical unit.

He checked progress in relation to the 60-bed modular extension that is being built at present and will deliver a much-needed boost in bed capacity when it opens in 2020.


The Minister’s visit came on the same day that, according to the INMO, there were 76 patients on trolleys there including 49 in the emergency department.

The UL Hospitals Group says the high trolley numbers this week is, in part, down to an outbreak of a gastrointestinal bug outbreak there.

This has meant 10 beds were left closed to admissions this morning.

One of two affected wards, Ward 3A, has specialist facilities and this has further restricted flow for certain patients.

Eight of these beds reopened today following review by infection prevention and control.

UL Hospitals Group Response:

The ED at University Hospital Limerick is one of the busiest in the country and has been experiencing high numbers of presentations in recent days, including many frail elderly patients. We regret that admitted patients have experienced long wait times in ED for a bed to become available. This is not the level of service we or the staff working in UL Hospitals Group wish to provide however we want to reassure our the public that every patient in ED continues to receive expert medical care and every effort is made to make their stay as comfortable as possible.

During 2018, the average number of daily presentations at the ED was 197. Last week, average presentations on weekdays surpassed 220 and this pattern has continued into this week with 217 attendances on Monday. The hospital is facing additional pressures in accessing transitional care and home care package funding, which has contributed to a rise in delayed discharges untypical in the MidWest. On Monday, there were 42 delayed discharges across UL Hospitals Group, which is about twice the average level.

In addition, 10 beds were this morning closed to admissions following on outbreak of a gastrointestinal bug at UHL last week. One of two affected wards, Ward 3A, has specialist facilities and this has further restricted flow for certain patients. Eght of these beds reopened today following review by infection prevention and control.

Bed capacity at UHL remains considerably below that of comparable hospitals in Ireland. 455 inpatient beds is not sufficient for the needs of the MidWest region. Over the past 12 months, bed capacity at UHL has increased by five.

Construction has commenced on a 60-bed block at UHL, which we expect to open in Q4 of 2020. With an estimated total capital cost of €19.5m, this is a significant project for the Midwest that will begin to address the acknowledged shortfall in bed capacity in UL Hospitals Group.

The ED at UHL has designated spaces for 49 patients.  Admitted patients waiting for a bed are often in single rooms or designated bays. A number of these patients will have en suite facilities to meet their IP&C needs.

Overcrowding is a whole-health service issue and not an issue strictly for the ED or hospital system. A multi-faceted approach is required to tackle overcrowding, encompassing additional bed capacity, improved patient flow, and the development of integrated care programmes with community services – all of which are being addressed by UL Hospitals Group.  We recognise the importance of a group wide focus on management of patient pathways and continue to use our existing bed stock efficiently across all our hospitals.

Measures are ongoing to relieve pressure on the UHL Emergency Department. We continue to work with our colleagues in the community to progress transition of appropriate patients to the community, and to maximise the use of beds available across the sites of the Hospitals Group.

Local Injury Units (LIUs) at Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals are open for treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns. In 2018, Injury Unit presentation totalled 32,244 or 31% of all ED attendances, and attendances at the LIUs increased by 6% on 2017 (30,424).

UL Hospitals Group reiterates its appeal for the public to use the Emergency Department for emergencies only, and to consider all care options before attending the ED. People should first attend a GP or an out-of-hours GP service, where they can be referred to an Assessment Unit the following day if required.

The Hospitals Group’s Local Injury Units at Ennis Hospital and Nenagh Hospital are open 8am-8pm every day, and at St John’s Hospital in Limerick from Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm.

However, if you are seriously injured or ill, or are worried that your life is at risk, the ED will assess and treat you as a priority.