THE issue of overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has been raised in the Dáil this morning.
Limerick TD Richard O'Donoghue joined with fellow Independent deputies Mattie McGrath, Tipperary and Clare's Michael McNamara to raise concerns at the number of patients waiting on trolleys in Dooradoyle.
It comes after the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) revealed that 111 patients were left without a bed on one day in January, a new national record.
Mr O'Donoghue questioned in light of the high trolleywatch figures, where the HSE's chief executive Paul Reid is.
"I know there are patients not being discharged on time. They have not been met to be discharged. what is the cost to the insurance company? I want an audit done to see how many patients are in hospital on a private capacity," he said during the debate on a topical motion.
He also alleged patients are being admitted for tests to UHL which can be done on a day care basis, and they are instead being kept in for four days.
"Activity must be controlled, and this needs strong management. Controls must be tough and this takes strong management," added the rural Independent.
Mr McNamara described the overcrowding in Limerick as "massive".
"What's happening with the independent review? Are we proceeding with it, or not? I don't have the answers, but I know what the problems are," he said, "The HSE is a failure. It's failed Limerick people."
And there were calls to re-open the emergency facilities at Nenagh General Hospital and St John's Hospital here in Limerick - which closed in 2013 - particularly from Mr McGrath.
"We were told there would be a centre of excellence in Limerick. It's chaotic, chaotic, chaotic. People have been left on trolleys. The trolley crisis is unimaginable there. The stress on patients and staff is umimaginable there. We need a whole seachange there," said Mr McGrath.
The Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said: "I wish to acknowledge the distress that overcrowded emergency departments causes to patients, staff and their families working in very challenging conditions in hospitals throughout the country. The health sector is facing significant challenges in providing emergency care over the winter period while also managing demand over Covid-19."
She did say the number of patients waiting on trolleys in 2021 at UHL was, on average, down 4.7% on 2020 levels, and 35% under the number recorded the year before.
However, she admitted this is "cold comfort" to impacted patients.
"UHL is working to ensure care is prioritised for the sickest patients. As part of the escalation plan, there are additional ward rounds, accelerated discharges and identification of patients for transfer to UL model two hospitals under way," she said, adding there continues to be substantial investment at UHL.
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