The Midwest Hospital Campaign is calling for enhanced government action to address overcrowding issues at University Hospital Limerick.
Monday saw 81 patients on trolleys at the Dooradoyle facility – around a third of those waiting for a bed in the country – with the number having dropped slightly to 64 yesterday morning.
The UL Hospitals Group says it’s experienced a ‘considerable demand for inpatient beds’ in recent weeks, both from COVID-19 patients and what they say is an increasing number of non-COVID patients who have seen their medical treatment delayed because of public health restrictions.
Former Clare general election candidate and member of the Midwest Hospital Campaign group, Noeleen Moran, believes intervention is needed from the Cabinet table.
UL Hospitals Group Response
During the latest COVID-19 surge, University Hospital Limerick has experienced considerable demand for inpatient beds from an increased number of people infected with the disease, and a rising number of non-COVID patients whose conditions have been complicated due to delays in seeking medical treatment at this time.
This past week has been no exception, and presentations at our Emergency Department have exceeded 200 per day on a number of occasions over the past week. Between 8am on Monday January 15th and 8am on Saturday January 20th, there were 1,025 presentations, an average of 205 per day. Last Friday alone, there were 222 presentations. This compares with the daily average of 195 patients recorded in 2019.
There are high numbers of patients waiting for inpatient beds. However, not all are waiting on trolleys in the Emergency Department. Most are in designated bed spaces (cubicles, bays and beds) in the ED (our COVID-19 emergency admission pathway), and in the non-COVID emergency admission stream of the Acute Medical Assessment Unit and Acute Surgical Assessment Unit. Admitted patients are also waiting in designated surge capacity.
Nevertheless, we regret when any patient has to wait for a long time for an inpatient bed, and we apologise to all affected patients and their loved ones. Every effort is made to ensure physical distancing is maintained and to keep wait times to a minimum. All patients continue to receive expert medical care while they wait.
The latest COVID-19 surge has presented an unprecedented challenge to hospitals in this country. Demand for services has never been higher. Admitted patients require hospitalisation for longer periods. In addition, significant numbers of staff have been absent for reasons associated with COVID-19, including testing positive, being designated a Close Contact of a positive case, or becoming symptomatic and isolating at home in line with national public health guidance. The extraordinary efforts of our staff to maintain a safe and efficient care environment for patients have been further challenged by a number of COVID-19 outbreaks in our hospitals since the start of the year.
While 98 new beds have opened at University Hospital Limerick over the past year, our overall capacity continues to be pressured not just by the challenges presented by the threat of the disease, but also by the physical distancing guidelines that we must continue to adhere to even while the programme to vaccinate us against COVID-19 rolls out.
Hospitals are also currently constrained in effecting inter-hospital transfers, discharges to community settings and discharges home. This is in the context of significant community transmission in the Mid-West and multiple outbreaks in healthcare settings across the region. This is having a considerable impact on patient flow in UHL contributing to long waits for patients in ED.
While the data seem to indicate that the worst of this third COVID-19 surge is past, it also suggests that the downward trend of this wave from the late January/early February peak will be slow and steady, rather than sudden and dramatic.
As an alternative to attending ED we urge everyone to first consider the care options that are available in their own communities, including family doctors, out-of-hours GP services, and local pharmacies.
The Injury Units at Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals (8am-8pm daily), and St John’s Hospital (8am-7pm, Monday to Friday) are an excellent option for treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns, without a lengthy wait that can be expected in the ED at this time.
If you do have symptoms of Covid-19, it is important that you do not go to the Emergency Department or your GP. Ring them in advance for advice. Avoid contact with other people by self-isolating. In a medical emergency if you have severe symptoms, call 112 or 999.
However, if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk the ED will assess and treat you as a priority