NURSES have reported record overcrowding at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital and have even called on the HSE to activate the major disaster protocols in place for events such as a plane crash at Shannon Airport.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has appealed for local GPs to be drafted in to help out as almost 100 more patients than the hospital has the capacity to safely care for were admitted.
The Regional is also struggling this week following an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug and the HSE has appealed to the public not to attend the emergency department “unless absolutely necessary”.
Nurses said that 10 beds were closed this week due to an infection outbreak and that the “gross overcrowding” experienced this week was “almost certainly a contributing factor” in the spread of bugs.
According to the INMO, there were 34 patients on trolleys in the emergency department waiting for a bed on Tuesday morning. This was in addition to 12 admitted patients on beds in the medical assessment unit; 11 on beds in the surgical day ward; 25 on beds which had to be re-opened with “a skeletal staff” on Ward 1B; and another 14 on overflow trolleys and beds dispersed around the hospital.
The union’s industrial relations officer for Limerick, Mary Fogarty, said on Tuesday that “additional nursing staff and acute in-patient beds must be prioritised to address this crisis and to prevent a major unavoidable incident”.
“It is incomprehensible that a hospital is allowed to reach such levels of over-capacity which undoubtedly lead to unsafe practices, low standards of care, mistakes and neglect of ill patients. We are today calling for the HSE to implement the major disaster plan and to call on GPs in the region to attend the hospital to provide any assistance.”
The hospital, she said, was “under the worst pressure ever experienced” despite assurances and reforms promised by the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly late last year.
*A full version of this story was published in the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated February 11, 2011