Funding cut sees hospital beds close at Limerick's St John's

Hospital in an 'impossible' position over €2m shortfall

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Funding cut sees hospital beds close at Limerick's St John's

Bed closures: St John's Hospital, Limerick

THE entire ground floor ward of St John’s Hospital in Limerick has been closed in the latest round of health cutbacks.

Management at the voluntary hospital have confirmed that due to a €2m funding shortfall from the HSE, 20 beds on the ground floor are now out of service, with chief executive Fearghal Grimes saying they have been left in an “impossible position” by the HSE.

The move has prompted anger, with fears the closure will have a negative impact on the University Hospital in Dooradoyle, which was again the highest in the country for overcrowding nationally on Tuesday.

This is because St John’s Hospital is a ‘step-down’ facility, providing bed support to the main centre. Patients already at St John’s have been moved to the upper floors of the 100-bed hospital.

Sinn Fein Senator Paul Gavan said it was a “scandal” while Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon has called on Health Minister Simon Harris to intervene and have these beds reopened.

In a statement, Mr Grimes said the hospital has its “lowest expenditure” budget since 2004.

”We have clearly outlined to the HSE, the negative impact this level of funding will have on services, but as of yet, no additional funding has been provided.

“We very much regret we have to take these measures, but we have been left in an impossible position,” he said.

Five of the beds closed this Monday, while 15 have been closed since early September 2016 due to nursing staff shortages, a spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group noted.

UL Hospitals Group said it "acknowledges the challenges faced by St John’s Hospital, which are similar to those faced by all hospitals within the group and around the country. We look forward to working with management at St John’s Hospital to ensure that the beds closed this Monday are reopened as soon as possible".

Former Siptu official Mr Gavan said: “This is an extremely serious development. It contradicts the constant stream of of promises from government politicians about additional investment.

“I understand the budget for this year is below that of 2004, which puts the lie to the various government promises to tackle this issue.

“It’s another example of the system bursting at the seams,” he added.

Mary Fogarty of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) added: “It’s disappointing more beds are closing when we have this crisis in the city”.

And Mayor O’Hanlon, who represents the St John’s area on the council, said: “It beggars belief we have a situation in the only hospital in the inner city and there are 20 beds closed. We are constantly hearing the Department of Health and the HSE is providing sufficient funding to keep beds and wards open.

"The University Hospital is bursting at the seams. We’ve seen ambulances queuing up there as A&E is full.”

There were 39 patients being treated on trolleys on Tuesday, according to figures released by the INMO.

Although the daily figures have dropped in recent weeks for the Dooradoyle facility, the figure is once again the highest for overcrowding nationally.

This Wednesday, there are 31 on trolleys in the emergency department and on wards, according to the INMO.