AROUND 20 beds are to be opened at St John’s Hospital in the coming days as the HSE attempts to alleviate the overcrowding crisis at the emergency department at Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
Ann Doherty, chief executive of the Mid-Western Regional Hospitals Group, said she had been in discussions with management at St John’s to allow the beds, which have been closed for a number of years, to reopen. It was unclear at the time of going to press how the HSE intended to staff the beds.
Six extra beds have been opened in Dooradoyle this year as patients transfer to the new €37 million critical care unit at Limerick Regional. This was part of a plan to free up a total of 21 beds in the hospital by the time the new unit is fully operational at the end of this year.
“We will have another seven of them coming on stream in the next few weeks,” Ms Doherty said.
Bed capacity at hospitals across the Mid-West remained an issue and “we have been working closely over the last number of months with the special delivery unit, the HSE nationally and the minister”, Ms Doherty said.
She was speaking before briefing politicians this Wednesday on overcrowding in Dooradoyle. It comes after a week in which the HSE has appealed to members of the public not to come to the emergency department unless unavoidable and in which the County Limerick Fire Service launched an investigation into overcrowding arising from a complaint from a consultant.
Ms Doherty could “not say for certain” whether the cold weather was contributing to the pressure. But many of those presenting were elderly patients with respiratory and other medical complaints. Of the 38 patients waiting on trolleys for admission this Wednesday morning, 29 had acute medical conditions.
“We have had a succession of acutely unwell patients over the age of 70 presenting at the emergency department,” Ms Doherty said.
“The majority have required admission to a bed. All in-patients are reviewed three times a day to assess their fitness for discharge. However, the reality is that every bed in the hospital is occupied by somebody who needs to be there.
“There are no delayed discharges due to people waiting for Fair Deal home care packages or because of inappropriate stays. Today one third of attendances and subsequent admissions are patients with respiratory and chest-related conditions. We are very much aware of the limits of the present emergency department and construction has commenced on a new department, expected to be operational in two years.”
A woman who contacted the Limerick Leader last Wednesday - the date of the complaint to the fire service - said her 86-year-old mother had presented at the emergency department after suffering a fall shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning and was still waiting for a bed 35 hours later.
“I was told she could be waiting for up to 40 hours. The place is like a zoo out there,” the daughter said.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the increasing number of elderly patients requiring admission was a consequence of cutbacks in community nursing and home help services.
Meanwhile, the HSE said it was complying with the request of the fire service to conduct a risk assessment of the emergency department by the end of this week.
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