Special measures to tackle University Hospital Limerick’s winter overcrowding

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh



A number of interim measures are being applied as UL Hospitals Group awaits delivery of 60-bed block

A number of interim measures are being applied as UL Hospitals Group awaits delivery of 60-bed block

THE UL HOSPITALS Group has announced a spate of initiatives to combat imminent overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick this winter season, including the construction of a new ward in the former emergency department.

As UHL awaits the completion of a €25m 96-bed unit, it is now looking to deliver an interim 60 beds to assuage its overcrowding problem. However, the 96-bed block won’t be built and ready until 2021 and the 60 beds will not come into fruition until late 2019.

In response to what is expected to be a busy winter and flu season, the UL Hospitals Group has outlined a number of special measures to tackle high levels of patients on trolleys. A spokesperson told this newspaper that it will review last year’s winter plan as part of the plan for this winter.

UHL will soon build a 19-bed ward at the old emergency department, which shut its doors in May 2017 following the opening of the new €24m facility.

“These works are at an advanced stage and we have submitted a bid as part of the estimates process for the full staffing and equipping of this unit in the winter period.”

UHL will work on admission avoidance for patients with certain conditions, such as respiratory illness, seizures, deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

UL Hospitals deals with 1,000 possible deep venous thrombosis cases and 1,500 possible pulmonary embolism (PE) cases each year.

A spokesperson said that PE patients are referred and admitted to a hospital bed for assessment and access to a CT scan. However, he said that 50% of these patients could avoid admission using “appropriate selection algorithms”.

“We are actively recruiting additional nursing resources to enable this admission avoidance measure,” he added. 

The spokesperson said it is in the process of training staff in order to open two additional critical care beds for the winter period.

A total of 11 have been trained to date, and it is planned that the two new beds will be open by August and November, respectively.

He added that the redevelopment of a medical ward at Nenagh General Hospital is at “an advanced stage” and once complete will “significantly enhance the patient accommodation” and improve patient transfers from Limerick to Nenagh.

It will comprise 16 single rooms and four semi-private rooms.

The spokesperson said that the group is in regular, ongoing contact with the Department of Health and the HSE on all matters relating to scheduled and unscheduled care.

Amid the ongoing trolley crisis, there are 40 nurse vacancies and eight vacancies for non-consultant hospital doctors at UHL.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan said that it was essential that the 60-bed block is progressed as quickly as possible and that the HSE “doesn’t hold it up by delaying funding approval”.

“I am very fearful for patients and their families as  well as staff if they have to endure the kind of overcrowding that makes UL Hospital Limerick consistently top the list of patients on trolleys for much longer.” 

“We face the winter with critical bed and staff shortages and the Government and the HSE must give urgent priority to Limerick,” she told the Limerick Leader.