ANGER has greeted a report that is highly critical of the accident and emergency department in University Hospital Limerick.
The State’s health watchdog, HIQA, released the report on Friday, which found that the A&E was “not fit for purpose” and was putting patients and staff at risk as a result.
Local councillors and TDs have since expressed outrage at the report’s findings.
Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick Niall Collins said he was “appalled” at the report.
“It is shocking and appalling to read the words ‘persistent overcrowding’, ‘unacceptable’ and ‘not fit for purpose’ in a HIQA report on the A&E department,” he said.
“The chronic lack of funding and resources at the hospital cannot be allowed to continue. Patients’ lives are literally being put at risk on a daily basis and this must stop.”
Northside councillor Joe Crowley, who was elected leas-cathaoirleach of the new merged local authority on Friday, said the conditions were “getting worse annually” and were now “totally unacceptable”. AAA Cllr Cian Prendiville - a newly elected member of the board of St John’s Hospital - said the report was “shocking, but it is no surprise”.
“This is a direct result of the policy of successive governments to downgrade St John’s, Ennis and Nenagh A&E’s, and send everyone to the Regional,” he said.
“Unfortunately the warnings that I and others gave at that time have come true, and the Regional has not been able to cope with the added pressure. It is overcrowded and understaffed.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Collins - newly appointed member of the HSE Regional Health Forum West - said he had “first hand experience of overcrowding”.
“I saw overcrowding, elderly people on trollies in an overcrowded area, nurses and staff working under extreme pressure and in awful conditions,” he said.
“I think it would be fitting of me to bring these issues to the health forum and to try and bring them up the line to let the minister see sense that this system isn’t working and we need radical reform.”
The 100-page report on patient safety and quality of care across the UL Hospitals Group was published on Friday.
And while there were positive findings about how the hospital group has managed reforms, criticism of how the emergency department in Dooradyole is run will come as a familiar tale to many patients and staff.
HIQA’s Phelim Quinn said: “HIQA believes the conditions experienced by patients attending the emergency department in University Hospital Limerick are unacceptable. The department was overcrowded and not fit for purpose; this resulted in significant compromises in maintaining adequate levels of environmental cleanliness, and increased risk of healthcare associated infections, impeded access to patients for care and observation, and severely reduced patients’ privacy and dignity.
“Other risks identified within the emergency department were delays in the admission of children to wards, while being accommodated in adult surroundings. This was despite the fact that a new children’s area had been developed but remained unopened. At the same time, staff in all the region’s local injuries units reported under-utilisation of their services. During the review, HIQA raised these risk issues at local and national HSE level.”
HIQA is also concerned about delays “in transferring patients from the emergency department to the intensive care unit and/or the high dependency unit”.
HIQA acknowledges that the changes in management and governance across the group are “in the early stages of development” and recognises the “commitment of staff” in meeting these challenges.
In a statement, hospital management welcomed the report and pointed out that an extensive capital project was underway to build a new A&E, due to open in 2016.
Ann Doherty, chief executive of the UL Hospitals group, said she was “very aware” that the department is not acceptable and had “put in place a wide range of initiatives to offset the current limitations”.