AS management and unions engage in talks to ease overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick, the government is being urged to “stop living in denial” and face up to the crisis in our hospitals.
Limerick branches of Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and Siptu Nursing had already decided upon holding a ballot for industrial action this week when the national record for patients waiting on trolleys was broken on Monday - and broken again on Tuesday.
The result of the Limerick ballot should be known next Monday and such is the discontent among nurses across UL Hospitals Group that they are expected to overwhelmingly endorse a work-to-rule towards the end of this month.
Yesterday, there were 601 patients waiting on trolleys around the country - of whom 41 were in Dooradoyle, 29 in the emergency department (ED) and 12 crammed into wards.
Patients are being transferred to St John’s, Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals in an effort to free up beds and some elective surgery is being postponed in an effort to cope with the immediate pressures.
UL Hospitals have again warned members of the public not to attend the emergency department unless strictly necessary.
“January is traditionally a very busy time in the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick and we expect to see an increase in emergency presentations over the coming week,” a spokesperson said.
“To address the expected increase, UL Hospitals has opened all its bed capacity across the group and patients who have finished their care are being discharged home or to community care.
“The public are reminded to keep the ED for emergencies only and to contact their GP or GP out-of-hours services in the first instance. Local injury units are open in Ennis and Nenagh hospitals from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Sunday and 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday at St John’s Hospital.
Patients aged five and over with minor injuries - “for example suspected broken bones in arm or lower leg, sprains, strains, minor scalds, burns or cuts” - are being advised to visit these local units.
Fianna Fail’s Deputy Niall Collins, meanwhile, has urged the government to act.
“People can still see the vision of former Health Minister James Reilly and Taoiseach Enda Kenny standing on the back of lorries at Roscommon and Monaghan hospitals proclaiming they would provide among other things a world class health service. People now know the truth, it’s another chapter in this government’s long list of broken promises. The truth is that this government is sleep-walking through the worst crisis ever experienced by people in our health service. What angers people most is that the government are in complete denial about this fact and it’s on their watch with only themselves to blame,” Deputy Collins declared.
“It’s time for the government to wake up, stop the denial, take responsibility and acknowledge that a serious crisis is afoot,” the Limerick TD added.