UHL overcrowding worsened over 13 years with three governments

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

UHL overcrowding worsened over 13 years with three governments

The overcrowding crisis has intensified under Minister Simon Harris, but Fianna Fail's contribution to the situation is also signinficant

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick’s overcrowding crisis has worsened under every Government over the past 13 years.

That’s according to an analysis of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s annual figures that have been in circulation since 2006.

From 2016 to 2019, University Hospital Limerick saw massive increase in patients on trolleys, from 8,090 to 13,941.

This 72% jump also marked the second consecutive year overcrowding exceeded 10,000, a first for any Irish hospital.

Simon Harris presided as Minister for Health for most of this time period, succeeding Leo Varadkar, now Taoiseach.

This increase occurred despite attempts to deliver a crucial modular 60-bed block, which is set to be fitted out and ready by the end of this year, at a cost of €19.5m.

Under the leadership of Enda Kenny, who famously promised in his election campaign that he would “end the scandal of patients on trolleys”, and Ministers for Health, Leo Varadkar and James Reilly, UHL overcrowding also worsened.

In 2011, there were 3,658 patients on trolleys. This rose by 99.2% to 7,288 patients on trolleys in 2015, according to INMO figures.

When challenged on these rising figures through the years, Fine Gael governments of the 31st and 32nd Dail have placed the blame on the previous Fianna Fail government, following the reconfiguration of the Mid-West hospitals in 2009.

This reconfiguration comprised the transfer of emergency services from St John’s Hospital, Ennis Hospital and Nenagh Hospital to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, now UHL with the vision of creating a so-called “centre of excellence”.

As part of this new change, it was recommended that UHL see 135 additional beds to deal with the extra capacity. However, this never occurred.

Sen Maria Byrne said recent overcrowding figures showed “that it was a reckless decision by Fianna Fail” to shut down the three emergency departments.

It was Brian Cowen’s government, with Mary Harney as Health Minister, that presided over a 47% increase in overcrowding at UHL. In 2007, there were 1,367 patients on trolleys, which rose to 3,715 in 2010.

The earliest record of annual overcrowding was in 2006 when there were 1,814 patients on trolleys at UHL.

UHL broke five overcrowding records since 2012, all of which were set under two different Fine Gael Governments.

In March 2012, UHL saw 80 patients on trolleys. It was not until April 3 in 2019 when UHL broke a new record with 81 patients. This record was matched three times on July 11, September 23, and October 1. 

The following day, UHL set a new record with 82 patients on trolleys. On November 25, UHL set another record with 85 patients on trolleys.  And on January 6, there were 92 patients on trolleys.