Talks to reopen ground floor at St John's Hospital in Limerick

Kieran O'Donnell raises bed closures with health minister

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Talks to reopen ground floor at St John's Hospital in Limerick

Senator Kieran O'Donnell

SENATOR Kieran O’Donnell has held talks with Health Minister Simon Harris with a view to getting the ground floor ward at St John’s re-opened.

It was confirmed this week that the entire ground floor of the city centre hospital is now out-of-use after five more beds were closed.

This is in addition to 15 beds which were closed last year.

Hospital chief executive Fearghal Grimes blamed the closure on a €2m funding shortfall from the HSE. But its net funding from University Hospital Limerick has in fact increased marginally.

Mr O’Donnell said the closure of beds is “unacceptable”, and confirmed he held talks with Mr Harris after the news filtered through this Wednesday.

“One of the primary issues in terms of hospital care for people in the Mid-West has been the lack of bed capacity. On one hand, we have funding to proceed with the design for a 96-bed unit on the grounds of the hospital. And yet at the same time, they are closing beds in St John's,” the Fine Gael man said.

“These beds are urgently needed. It’s a city centre hospital. It takes a huge level of pressure off University Hospital – and is an integral part of how this hospital works,” Mr O’Donnnell said.

Fellow Senator Paul Gavan, Castleconell, added: “It’s deeply ironic that on the same day that Finance Minister Michael Noonan was there to cut the ribbon for the Bon Secours private hospital (formerly Barringtons) that our city centre public hospital was closing its entire ground floor. This shows you where this government’s priorities really lie.”

In a statement, Mr Grimes said he had been left in an “impossible position” by the cuts.

St John’s Hospital is a ‘step down’ facility, providing bed support to University Hospital.

“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 having to take these decisions,” he said.

In a statement, UL Hospitals group said it “acknowledges the challenges faced by St John’s Hospital, which are similar to those faced by hospitals within the group and all around the country.”

It noted that the net allocation of funds to St John's had increased marginally in 2017, despite seeing its own net allocation decrease in the same period.

“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,” said the spokesperson.

University Hospital had 31 patients waiting on trolleys in the emergency department and wards in Dooradoyle, according to figures released by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.