THE number of patients admitted to the University Hospital Limerick emergency department was more than 60 above average levels over a 24-hour period between Monday and Tuesday.
According to a spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group, the high volumes of patients presenting at the emergency department (ED) at UHL in recent days has resulted in an increase in the numbers waiting in the ED for admission.
There was a total of 213 attendances at the emergency department in the 24-hour period up to 8am on Tuesday. The average, the spokesperson said, is 150.
“Patients are triaged upon presentation and prioritised for assessment and treatment. As of 12 noon this Tuesday, there were 86 patients in the emergency department and the longest time a person had been waiting to be seen by an emergency department doctor was under three hours, with more urgent cases being seen and treated much more quickly in accordance with clinical need,” the spokesperson said.
The number of patients waiting for admission by Tuesday morning at 8am stood at 19. In accordance with the UL Hospitals’ escalation plan, “additional patients have also been placed on wards to reduce pressure on the emergency department during this very busy period,” the spokesperson said.
“UL Hospitals regrets that any patient has to wait for admission. In the ED, the focus of staff throughout the day will be to continue to reduce the numbers waiting and the length of time they wait.”
Among the measures being taken to relieve pressure on the ED are: the transfer of suitable patients from UHL to Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, St John’s Hospital and Croom Hospital. In addition, all elective surgery, with the exception of cancer cases, has been cancelled at UHL and St John’s Hospital as of this Tuesday. Elective surgery is to be kept under review.
Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said that while a “surge in activity had been expected”, she admitted that “activity and acuity remains high and patients are waiting too long for admission”.
“We expect significant numbers to continue to attend the department for the next few days and to address that we have cancelled all elective surgery with the exception of cancer patients,” she explained.
“We have used all capacity at the hospital and we are transferring up to 20 patients a day to our model 2 hospitals and those who are ready to go home are being discharged home.
“Our staff are working flat out and we acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous work they are doing. While the ED is extremely busy at present, any assertion care is unsafe is rejected. Patients are being seen and are being treated. Additional staff have been put in and are being assisted by senior clinical decision makers 24-7.”
In late October, UHL launched its winter resilience plan, which aims to ease overcrowding levels between November and March.
In December, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar announced a protocol that there would be no more than eight people waiting on a trolley in A&E for more than nine hours.
The HSE has stated that if this protocol is breached, the hospital could face a financial penalty of €10,000 being taken away from its annual budget.