WATCH: Taoiseach lists solutions for trolley 'crisis' after Limerick sets new overcrowding record

Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

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Fintan Walsh, Health Correspondent

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie


THE TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said that the overcrowding problem in Limerick is going to “need a different approach” after this week’s record-breaking trolley figures.

Speaking this Friday at the launch of Edwards Lifesciences €160m plans in Castletroy, Taoiseach Varadkar said that he did think the overcrowding problem was a “crisis”.

This comes after the UL Hospitals Group’s chief clinical director, Prof Paul Burke told RTE Radio One: “It is not a crisis, it is something we deal with all the time and we have to deal with it.”

On Wednesday, UHL set the new national record for overcrowding, as 81 patients were recorded on trolleys in the emergency departments and wards. It was the first time a national record had been set since March 22, 2013 when there were 80 patients on trolleys in UHL.

The Limerick Leader asked the Taoiseach if he shared the same view as Prof Burke, to which he replied: “I think overcrowding is a crisis, certainly for those who experience it, whether it’s the patients on trolleys or their relatives or the staff, it is a crisis.

“But what I am interested in is dealing with issues. There are so many people who are very keen to name something a crisis, and after you name it a crisis, they want you to name it an emergency. That doesn’t solve any problems. What we need is to be solution-focused, and that’s what people want. I don’t think people want a debate on whether you name something a crisis or not.”

The Leader then asked the Taoiseach, who is a former Minister for Health, what the solutions were.

He replied that there were “lots of solutions”, adding that many hospital groups around the country at a “record low” for overcrowding.

“But it requires a combination of things. Yes, it requires more resources, more staff, more beds. But we have had that for four years, now, in Limerick so clearly that is not enough. We’re going to need a different approach, which will involve a better use of other facilities such as Nenagh and Ennis, better use of primary care, and also better management of patient pathways, making sure that we don’t have patients in a hospital bed, waiting weeks and months for a nursing home or homecare,” he told the media.

Taoiseach Varadkar added: “Make sure that when a patient is admitted on Friday, that they don’t wait until Monday or Tuesday to have the treatment they need, to have the scan they need, or the specialist they see. But no matter how many beds you have, if you don’t get those things right, it will never be enough.”

In a statement to the media during the week, the UL Hospitals Group said: "UL Hospitals apologises for any inconvenience caused to patients or their loved ones who have experienced long wait times in the ED at UHL, and we would like to reassure patients and their families that we are working to alleviate the situation.

 "Members of the public are urged to consider all their care options at this time and not to attend the Emergency Department unless necessary.  Injury Units in St John’s, Ennis and Nenagh hospitals are open for appropriate injuries. 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. 

"Others with a less serious illness can be treated by their GP or out of hours GP service where their GP can refer them to an Assessment Unit the following day if required.

"However, if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk the ED will assess and treat you as a priority."