THE Mid-Western Regional Hospital has the worst overcrowding on wards of any hospital in the country, early results from a nationwide survey by nurses show.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has since 2006 been compiling its Trolley Watch figures to highlight overcrowding in emergency departments, The data is regarded by Minister for Health James Reilly as an accurate barometer of A&E overcrowding.
And the nurses union has this week begun recording the numbers of patients accommodated on trolleys, chairs and overflow beds on general wards. This, according to the INMO, gives a fuller picture of hospital overcrowding beyond the doors of the emergency department. The unionâ€™s general secretary Liam Doran has listed Limerick Regional as one of five major hospitals that are â€œovercrowded on a daily basisâ€.
Early data showed that Limerick Regional had the worst problem in the country in terms of the number of patients being accommodated on wards above the agreed complement. Over 20 patients were being treated in this fashion in Dooradoyle on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, by far the highest in the country.
In the emergency department, meanwhile, there were 34 patients waiting on trolleys for admission on Tuesday of this week, a nationwide high, and 31 on trolleys on Wednesday, just behind Beaumont and Cork University Hospital.
This comes despite HSE efforts to alleviate emergency department overcrowding through the reopening of 10 closed beds at St Johnâ€™s Hospital this week. Recruitment of nurses is ongoing to allow for the opening of a further 10 closed beds at St Johnâ€™s by the end of this month.
St Johnâ€™s Hospital chief executive officer Fearghal Grimes said that â€œfollowing consultation and vigorous recruitment, 10 beds were opened at St Johnâ€™s this Monday morning and the additional 10 beds will come on stream on a phased basis before the end of April following completion of the recruitment processâ€.
Interviews for 15 nursing posts to staff the remaining 10 beds at St Johnâ€™s began last Friday. Eight applicants had been interviewed by the end of the day with further efforts to recruit ongoing this week.
This is part of a wider drive by the HSE to increase bed capacity across the acute hospital network in the region. A total of 21 beds are coming on stream at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital itself this year as the six-storey critical care block is occupied on a phased basis.
â€œSix of these beds have already been provided. Two new acute medicine physicians have been appointed and have taken up duty and a third is to start next week,â€ a HSE spokesman said.
Minister Reilly said this week that the special delivery unit of his department had examined the issues at Limerick Regional and determined there were bed capacity issues to address.
â€œWe have already opened up 10 beds and another 10 beds over the next couple of weeks, and a further 20 beds to be opened up over the next month, I hope, in another hospital. We are addressing the issue,â€ he told the Irish Examiner.
â€œIf the special delivery unit has done nothing else, it has at least restored some faith in the system â€” you make your case and if the case is found to be valid, we act on it.â€
The minister added it would take another 18 months before the new emergency department at the Regional Hospital opened its doors to patients.
The HSE has already pledged to eliminate the practice of patients waiting on trolleys in A&E by the end of this year.