Recruitment Must Be Fastracked To Prevent Soaring Trolley Numbers At UHL – Norton

University Hospital Limerick emergency department

A 600 million euro winter support package for the health system has been agreed by Government.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says it is being put in place ahead of the most challenging winter in our hospitals “in living memory.”

Full details will be announced in the coming days, but Minister Donnelly outlined some of its measures at this afternoon’s government briefing.

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It comes as fear has been expressed that trolley numbers will continue to soar at the region’s main hospital over the winter season.

The latest INMO figures show trolley numbers at University Hospital Limerick have climbed to 69 today, with the union warning that rising numbers could have catastrophic consequences.

The UL Hospitals Group says the hospital is currently managing high volumes of patients, including many unwell elderly patients and is urging people to attend their GP or utilise the Injuries Unit at Ennis General where possible.

122 beds are due to come on stream at the Dooradoyle facility over the coming months, but a Former member of the HSE’s Regional Health Forum West insists that staffing remains a serious concern.

Health campaigner and Independent Councillor Ann Norton has been telling Clare FM’s Fiona Cahill that recruitment needs to be fast-tracked.

Statement from UL Hospitals Group:

The hospital is currently managing high volumes of patients including many unwell elderly patients with medical conditions who have presented to the ED over recent days. Presentations were unusually high over the weekend with 179 patients attending ED in the 24-hour period to 8am on Monday.

We are sorry that any admitted patient faces a long wait for a bed and we are working to ensure that all patients continue to receive expert medical care while they are waiting.

We have opened surge capacity at UHL and we are appropriately transferring patients to other hospitals in our Group, and to the non-acute Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) at the University of Limerick (UL).

Members of the public are encouraged to consider all care options available to them before they attend ED, including their family doctors, out-of-hours GP services and local pharmacies.

Injury Units are staffed by consultant-led multidisciplinary teams, and can treat patients over the age of 5 for a wide range of minor injuries, including broken bones, dislocations, sprains and minor burns. The only exceptions are patients with serious head, back and neck injuries, abdominal (stomach) pain, medical illnesses or mental health problems, and children under the age of five.

All three units are open seven days a week. Attendance costs €75, and there is no charge for patients with full medical cards, or those who have a valid medical/GP referral letter. St Johns IU is open daily 8am-7pm, and can be contacted on 061-462303. The IU at Nenagh (open 8am-8pm) can be contacted on 067-42311, while the Ennis unit (8am-8pm) can be contacted on 065-6863121.

It is important that the Emergency Department is for emergencies only and patients presenting to the department with a minor injury may be redirected to one of our Injury Units. Patients may also be redirected to the medical assessment units in Ennis and Nenagh. In all emergency cases where a patient is seriously injured or ill or worried their life is at risk, they should call an ambulance or present to the ED.

Measures being taken to relieve pressure on the ED and as part of our escalation policy also include the transfer of appropriate patients to community care settings and maximising access to homecare packages and transition care; working closely with Community Intervention Teams to provide antibiotics and other appropriate care in a patient’s home or care facility and communication with GPs to ensure patients are referred to ED only where appropriate.

The unique bed capacity challenges faced by the MidWest are widely acknowledged and these are being addressed through the addition of 122 additional beds nearing completion or recently completed at UHL and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital. In the longer term, a planning application was also lodged last month for the 96-Bed Block at UHL which is included in the national capital plan project Ireland 2040.