Patient healthcare concerns laid bare in Limerick hospital survey

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

Colette Cowan, UL Hospitals, and Minister Simon Harris at UHL, which was rated below the national average for overall patient experience Picture: Brian Arthur

Colette Cowan, UL Hospitals, and Minister Simon Harris at UHL, which was rated below the national average for overall patient experience Picture: Brian Arthur

INSIGHTS into patients’ experiences of Limerick’s three major acute hospitals have been revealed by in-depth survey findings published earlier this week.

The National Patient Experience Survey questioned a total of 934 patients who were discharged from University Hospital Limerick, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital and St John’s Hospital in May last. 

During this month, a total of 1,790 patients were discharged, meaning just 52% of patients in May were successfully questioned.

The patient experiences at Croom and St John’s were rated above the national average, with 93% and 92% rating the respective hospitals positively, in comparison to the national average of 84%.

UHL was among the worst five rated hospitals in the country, with a patient experience score of 79%. In the 50-page review of the Dooradoyle facility, there were highly critical findings surrounding its emergency department.

Of the 734 patients questioned, just 81 people — or 17% — were admitted to a ward within six hours of arriving at the emergency department. This meant that the hospital failed to meet HSE target waiting times for up to 83% of patients.

More than 250 patients were waiting between six and 24 hours, and a contingent of 34 people said that they waited for more than 48 hours.

The survey quoted one person saying that there was dignity and respect when being admitted, but another anonymous commenter stated: “I feel that 50.5 hours in A+E on a trolley with no privacy or information was degrading and upsetting to both me and my family.”

Though wards were rated highly for cleanliness at UHL, care on the ward was rated below national average, the survey shows. Food was the lowest rated area. One patient said: “The meals are delivered on a tray. Put far away from the patient and if the patient isn’t able to get to it there is nobody to see to that.”

While one person described the meals as “excellent”, one critical patient wrote that they were “bad unhealthy choices” and “not appealing to the sick”.

One patient, critical of the hygiene, said that cleaning staff used the same “J cloth” to clean the walls, bins, water taps, medical instruments and “everything in sight. The infection control team please take note.”

There was a low rating between the three hospitals regarding a lack of adequate information on the side effects of prescribed medication, the surveys show.

Of the 85 questioned at Croom Orthopaedic, there was a low satisfaction rate in relation to getting clear answers from doctors; patients’ involvement in decisions about their care and privacy when discussing treatment. One patient complained about the lack of WiFi at the county hospital.

St John’s scored lowly in relation to staff name badges; help from staff to eat meals; clear explanation of test results; and consideration of family and home situation when being discharged.

One patient at St John’s said that the bed allocation “could be better” as they were an insured patient in a public ward.

In response to criticism of UHL’s admissions, management said that a new emergency department opened at the end of May and that it will “make a significant difference to patients”.

Reacting to the findings, UL Hospitals Group CEO Colette Cowan said: “We now have to demonstrate that we have listened to our patients by implementing our improvement plans across all sites. The data that has been gathered under the survey is rich and detailed and will help us drive improvements for patients. Huge credit is due to all the patients who participated and the staff who maximised participation.

“As a group we have long recognised the importance of the patient voice in our service planning. The days of paternalism are rightly over and we are increasingly moving away from what we are ‘doing for’ or ‘doing to’ patients to what we are ‘doing with’ them.”