October 18: Short-term solution required for local hospital’s ills

Overcrowding in the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick was raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael deputies Kieran O’Donnell and Pat Breen.

Overcrowding in the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick was raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael deputies Kieran O’Donnell and Pat Breen.

Last June, Deputy Breen said the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, warned that the Emergency Department at Limerick Regional Hospital was not fit for purpose as overcrowding there had reached critical proportions. According to the INMO trolley figures, 561 patients were on trolleys in the hospital in September.

Deputy Breen said he visited the emergency department at the hospital on a recent Tuesday to see at first hand the numbers there.

“Before I describe what I saw, I pay tribute to the dedicated and hard-working staff who have to work in such an appalling and stressful environment having regard to what they have to endure, day in, day out,” he said. “What I saw was disturbing,” he said. “It was not a pretty sight. When I arrived, 23 patients were being treated on trolleys. It was almost a nightmare. Trolleys were lined up in the narrow corridors with family members gathered around their loved ones and many other patients were on their own wondering when a bed would become available. There was no dignity afforded to patients and little room for staff to treat them. It was bordering on unsafe. My thoughts turned immediately to the previous day when 50 patients were being treated on trolleys.”

Deputy O’Donnell said an interim solution is needed to this problem. “We need a short-stay bed unit with 20 to 30 beds that would relieve the overcrowding and overflow from the Accident and Emergency Department,” he said. “It would allow people to access the Accident and Emergency Department with dignity and avoid people being treated on trolleys for hours on end. People are entitled to such a service. I am not looking for anything new here. It is fully recognised that there is a major problem in accommodating the current level of capacity at the Accident and Emergency department. A new Accident and Emergency department is under construction and it is hoped it will be open in 2016.”

In reply, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said pending completion of the new Emergency Department in 2016, a number of initiatives are in place to help address the limitations for patients and staff in the emergency department.

“In particular, a dedicated paediatric emergency area is now open,” he said.

“This means children are seen separately in a child-friendly space. In a major step for acute hospital services in the region, a new critical care unit has opened which allows for better patient flow for seriously ill or injured patients presenting to the emergency department.

“The acute medical and surgical assessment units are open, and these take direct referrals from GPs and the emergency department.”

He said a 17-bed short stay unit opened in April 2014.

This unit is managed by the acute medicine physicians and aims to complete treatment or assessment of patients within 48 hours of admission.

“Three patient flow managers are in place who co-ordinate the transfer of lower acuity patients from University Hospital Limerick to Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s hospitals to release capacity for emergency department admissions in the main hospital,” he added.

O’Donovan calls for investment in agricultural colleges

Further investment in agricultural colleges such as Pallaskenry was called for in the Dáil by Fine Gael Deputy Patrick O’Donovan.

“There is a college in Pallaskenry in my constituency and the teaching numbers in it are being stretched,” he said. “If we are to deliver the type of education we require for the next generation of farmers, we require a level of investment there.”

Neville critical of lack of regulation of psychotherapists

At present, there is no regulation in this country for the registration of psychotherapists and counsellors and no State control over the qualifications held by those practising in the area, Limerick Fien Gael Deputy Dan Neville told the Dáil.

It is dangerous, he said, for untrained and unskilled people to probe a person’s unconscious.

They are dealing with human vulnerability and serious damage could be done to such delicate people. Speaking on a new Health Bill, he said he was aware of the provision of certain courses.