Labour leader warns Limerick hospital is ‘facing winter of hell’

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

Labour leader warns Limerick hospital is ‘facing winter of hell’

University Hospital Limerick

THE LEADER of the Labour Party, Alan Kelly, has said that University Hospital Limerick is “facing a winter of hell” unless action is taken waiting times in its crisis-hit emergency department. 

Deputy Kelly made the comments while welcoming the HSE’s seeking planning permission for a €50m 96-bed block, but is calling on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to ensure the project is open and fully staffed by September 2023. 

The UL Hospitals Group said that, subject to funding availability, the new block could be completed by September 2023. 

A €19.5m 60-bed modular block is already currently under construction at UHL, and is on course for completion by the end of the year. 

And plans are also in place to have two 24-bed rapid build wards in UHL and Croom by the end of the year. A 14-bed unit is at design stage at UHL.

It is hoped that this new infrastructure will help assuage the Limerick hospital’s ongoing trolley crisis. 

This Monday saw 58 patients on trolleys in the emergency department and wards, making up almost 33% of the country’s overcrowding figures. 

Deputy Kelly said that the people of the Mid-West region “have been led up the garden path several times in relation to increasing the number of beds at UHL. 

“The hospital is consistently the most overcrowded in the whole country and we are facing a winter of hell at UHL unless action is taken on wait times in the emergency department.”

And while he welcomed the HSE’s lodged plans for the 96-bed block, he has called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to “commit to the unit being open and fully staffed” by the proposed date of completion.

“Minister Donnelly needs to act now as wait times and trolley numbers have been steadily rising since the lockdown measures were eased and there are frequently more than 50 people waiting on trolleys at UHL, twice the number than at other acute hospitals. He also needs to ensure that the 96-bed unit is not another empty promise to the people of the Mid-West and is delivered and opened on time.”

A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group said: “Subject to funding availability these works could potentially start on site in the second half of 2021 and be completed by September 2023.”

But Fine Gael TD, Kieran O’Donnell, who lobbied for the 96 beds for a number of years, said that he has been advised by HSE Estates that the timeframe of the 96 beds is to commence construction in early 2023 “with an 18 month build completion period”. 

“When reconfiguration took place back in 2009, UHL was supposed to have an additional 138 beds in place as part of the process which did happen at the time. This is something I have taken serious issue with and I have campaigned strongly to have this matter addressed. 

“These 200 Acute beds will bring a great benefit to the delivery of hospital care to the people of Limerick and the Mid-West, they deserve nothing less. I will continue to work to ensure that the 96 Acute bed block at UHL will be built as quickly as possible,” Deputy O’Donnell said.