THE numbers of patients on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick remain the highest in the country for a fourth consecutive day this Friday.
There are, according to figures provided by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, 41 people on trolleys at UHL emergency department and in wards.
There were 60 people on trolleys on Thursday, 66 on Wednesday and 46 on Tuesday at the Dooradoyle facility, which is battling one of Ireland’s worst flu and Norovirus (winter vomiting bug) outbreaks.
According to new figures, UHL was the worst hospital for overcrowding in Ireland in 2016, with 8,090 patients treated on trolleys — at least 1,900 more patients than any other hospital.
Since Tuesday, thousands of people across the country have shared a video of 16-ambulance “pile-up” outside the emergency department, which has prompted widespread criticism from the public and calls from Limerick councillor Cian Prendiville for the Government to “declare a national emergency” for all A&E services.
Speaking this week, Colette Cowan, CEO of the UL Hospitals Group, said that she believed the “unprecendented” pile-up of ambulances outside the hospital occurred because of referrals by out of hours locum doctors and GPs.
According to a report in today’s Irish Times, she also disagreed that hospital managers were to blame for overcrowding in emergency departments, saying that she and her colleagues were already “performance managed” by the HSE and were given “targets that we have to meet”.
People with influenza-like illnesses are being advised not to attend the emergency department without a GP referral.
Dr Breda Corcoran, HSE national immunisation officer said: “Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter flu remedies to ease symptoms. People in high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop flu symptoms.”
On Wednesday, after overcrowding reached peak levels, a spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group said: “The ED in University Hospital Limerick is one of the busiest in the country with over 60,000 attendances annually.
“The Christmas/New Year period has been exceptionally busy with many frail elderly patients presenting and requiring admission to hospital. Levels of influenza and respiratory illness remain high, as of today, the 4th of January 2017, there were 10 confirmed cases of seasonal influenza in UHL, and visitor restrictions remain in place at the hospital.
“Traditionally, average attendances at the ED have been approximately 150 over a 24-hour period from Monday to Friday and 120 per 24 hours at weekends. On three consecutive weekdays last week, the daily attendance figures ranged between 180 and 211 patients and this pattern has continued into this week with 209 attendances yesterday (Tuesday).
“Overcrowding at this level can unfortunately cause delays to ambulances when they arrive at UHL and the hospital regrets that any patient has to wait to be seen.”
A “full capacity protocol” has been implemented by management at the hospital, which includes the addition of 17 beds and a number of measures to relieve the situation at UHL.