UL Hospitals dealing with 'extraordinary demand for services' at emergency department

11,437 patients were treated on trolleys at UHL in 2018

More than 200 patients have presented at the emergency department at UHL every day this week

THE UL Hospitals Group says it's managing an "extraordinary demand for its services" at its emergency department of a type and on a scale never before experienced in the Mid West.

It says demand is such that, despite the additional bed space opened at UHL over the past eight months, many admitted patients have been experiencing long waits for beds.

"This is not the kind of care we wish to provide, and we apologise to any patient who has experienced a long wait for a bed," said a spokesperson.

In a lengthy statement, issued in response to the call by the INMO for an urgent HIQA investigation, the spokesperson stated that UL Hospitals has noted the union's concerns about the situation.

"The Group’s Chief Clinical Director and the Chief Director of Nursing & Midwifery have met with representatives of the INMO this week to discuss and set out specific actions for managing crowding in the Emergency Department in this current period of particularly high demand," reads the statement.

UL Hospitals says there remains significant demand for beds from people who have been de-listed as being Covid-positive, but who continue to make their recovery from the disease.

For example, on Thursday, April 22, the total number of inpatients in UHL who were either query-Covid, Covid-positive, post-Covid or long-Covid exceeded 40.

"Covid-19 infection accounts for only one aspect in the multi-faceted demand for services at UHL. Also during the past year, there has been an increase in serious non-Covid illnesses that have been complicated due to delays in seeking treatment during lockdowns, and which require longer recovery times," said the spokesperson.

"In short, people are getting sicker with more complicated conditions, and patients need to spend longer in hospital to recover from their illnesses," he explained.

Meanwhile, new data shows there has been a cumulative increase of 0.9-days in the average length of stay for medical patients over the last three years.

UL Hospitals says it is also experiencing record levels of presentations.

In the 24 hours between 8am on Monday and 8am on Tuesday, 241 people attended the ED. The following three 24-hour periods brought attendances of 283, 243, and 214.

"Daily emergency presentations at the hospital in excess of 200 are now the norm. The average daily attendance figure for 2019, the last full year pre-pandemic, was 197," said the spokesperson.

"We continue to focus on all aspects of patient flow, including access to diagnostic tests that help ensure timely discharge or transfer of patients. No effort is being spared in ensuring that physical distancing in the hospital is maintained, and wait times are kept to a minimum," he added. 

UL Hospitals has moved to reassure members of the public that all our patients continue to receive expert medical care while they wait.

It says not all patients are waiting on trolleys and that most are in designated bed spaces (cubicles, bays and beds) in the ED and in the non-Covid emergency admission stream of the Acute Medical Assessment Unit and Acute Surgical Assessment Unit.

Admitted patients are also waiting in designated surge capacity.

"The phenomenon of hospital overcrowding is multi-factorial, and will not be solved by increasing bed capacity alone. However, we are grateful for the significant increase in bed capacity in UHL over the past number of months. This single room accommodation has provided our patients with the comfort they deserve, and allowed us to better manage infection risk in the hospital, not least during the considerably challenging third wave of Covid-19 in January 2021," said the spokesperson.

"This in no way minimises the upset that people feel when they experience a lengthy wait for a hospital bed, and we apologise to those people, and their families, who have been inconvenienced at this time," he added.

UL Hospitals is reiterate its appeal on the public to only present at the Emergency Department only in the event of an emergency or a serious illness, and to first consider all the alternative care options available to them, including family doctors, out-of-hours GP services, local pharmacies and the Injury Units at St John’s, Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals.

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