01 Oct 2022

Hospital boss apologies for 'lack of dignity' for patients in Limerick emergency department

THE CHIEF executive of the University of Limerick Hospitals Group has issued an apology over the "distress" and "lack of dignity" experienced by some patients.

Prof Colette Cowan, who leads University Hospital Limerick (UHL) and five other facilities, appeared before the Oireachtas health committee this week.

It comes after a report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) which found "insufficient" nursing staff numbers was "having an impact on the safe provision of care" and the hospital's "overcrowded and understaffed emergency department posed a significant risk" to patients.

The report found one patient was waiting 116 hours on a trolley for a hospital bed, with the findings arising from an unannounced visit Hiqa made to the Dooradoyle facility in March last.

In opening remarks in the committee, Prof Cowan said: "This is not the kind of report and hospital manager wishes to read. This is not the kind of care environment we wish to provide for the people of the Mid-West. It is not for want of effort on the part of the management team or commitment on the part of our staff."

She added: "At the outset, I wish to acknowledge the main findings of the Hiqa report. I apologise for the distress and th elack of dignity and privacy experienced by far too many patients seeking to access care in UHL over several years and in particular over the last 18 months when we have seen further growth in demand for healthcare following the Covid-19 pandemic."

The hospital boss said that a detailed compliance plan was developed ijn the wake of the report identifying actions to be taken in the short, medium and long term.

"We are improving internal processes and we are implementing new hospital avoidance initiatives. The solutions require closer integration with community services as set out in Slaintecare and more fundamentally, resourcing the health service in the Mid-West in line with the size and health needs of the population it serves," Prof Cowan added.

She said she hopes the publication of the report will be the "catalyst" to address what she feels is a "fundamental mismatch" between "demand and resources" in Dooradoyle and the wider region.

Prof Cowan also repeated her call for a new elective hospital in the region, with Limerick the only major city in the country not being granted one by government.

And she expressed support for St John's Hospital's plan to expand its services in the city centre.

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