THE HSE has been given two weeks to complete a risk assessment of the emergency department at the Regional Hospital after the Limerick County Fire Service expressed concern over overcrowding.
It has emerged that an inspection of the A&E department last Wednesday was precipitated by a complaint to the county fire chief by a consultant working at the hospital.
Fire authorities have responsibility for the regulation of crowds and while cases involving pubs and nightclubs occasionally come before the courts, investigating a hospital is an unusual departure.
A spokesman for the council confirmed: “Limerick County Council, as the fire authority for the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick, carried out an inspection of the A&E department on Wednesday, March 20 on receipt of a complaint of alleged overcrowding at the facility”.
“The fire authority has been in contact with senior HSE personnel...requesting that a risk-based assessment be carried out in the A&E department no later than Friday, April 5.”
The HSE confirmed it would be conducting the assessment in accordance with the wishes of the fire chief.
A woman who contacted the Limerick Chronicle last Wednesday - the date of the complaint - 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.
There were 32 people waiting on trolleys in the emergency department last Wednesday and this had climbed to 43 on Friday, a day on which the HSE issued an appeal to members of the public not to come to casualty unless absolutely necessary.
The numbers waiting on trolleys dropped to 25 on Monday, but had risen to 38 as of this Tuesday morning and a spokesman for the HSE said the situation remained a cause for concern and people were still being asked to attend at A&E only if unavoidable.
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