An elderly woman was left soaking in urine while waiting for a bed in Limerick University Hospital, the Dail has heard.
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald read out accounts of patients who have recently attended the hospital with one describing the emergency department as being like a “war zone”.
“The daughter of an 83-year-old woman attending University Hospital Limerick said of her mother, she was soaked. There was urine everywhere and she wasn’t on a trolley. She was in the waiting room on a chair and they gave her some kind of pad and told her to sit on it,” she told Leaders Questions.
Ms McDonald told of a 73-year-old man on a trolley for 24 hours and of patients having oxygen bottles fitted to them while waiting in corridors.
“This crisis isn’t yours Taoiseach. It’s yours in the making you and Fianna Fail. Between you, you have created the situation where today there are 660 people waiting on trolleys across the state, 33 of them are children and Limerick University Hospital has once again, the highest number with 75 patients waiting,” she said.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said many elective surgeries for children are being postponed due to waiting lists and cancellations.
Mr Martin accused the Government of “failing the children of Ireland” with huge waits and delays in the health service. “It is a bleak picture,” he said.
Hospital overcrowding crisis in the UK is a patient waiting over 4hrs in A&E. Here it means a 70yr old woman waiting 105hrs on a trolley. Inhuman and definitely not what hardworking hospital staff want @fiannafailparty https://t.co/xu4GbU9Shz— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) November 25, 2019
In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said hospitals are under pressure due to the winter vomiting bug outbreak and other viruses and that action has been taken by the Government to deal with these issues by providing access to vaccines.
“I do want to acknowledge that our emergency departments are very busy at present. They’re busy all year round but they’re particularly busy in the last couple of weeks, and as a government, we deeply regret the fact that this is having a terrible impact on patients on their families, and also on staff.
“There are factors behind it, particularly when it comes to children’s hospitals. It is largely related to an outbreak of the RSV virus and also the norovirus, which has caused a significant increase in attendance in only the last couple of days,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said the Government has been adding more beds to the hospital system every year since 2015.
“We will continue to do that, a plan to add another 2,000 in the next 10 years reversing the policy of the previous government to take hundreds and thousands of beds out of the system,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said Limerick University Hospital is heavily overcrowded but is one of “the most modern and biggest hospitals” in the country.
“There is a new wing in that hospital which only opened in recent years, and there’s a 20 million euro investment for a 60-bed inpatient block. That is under construction and is nearing completion. We anticipate that construction will be completed around the middle of next year, allowing it to open in 2020,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said it was not an issue of re-opening hospital beds that have been closed: “Of the 11,000 beds in our health service at the moment only about 20 are closed for one reason or another, either for infection control or refurbishment.
“So if you want to add extra beds, you need to add entire new ward blocks and that’s exactly what we’re doing in Limerick now, and in other places around the country.”
Ms McDonald said unsafe conditions and overcrowding are now happening all the time throughout the year and not just during the winter season or due to the outbreak of viruses.
She said: “His is now a year-long, calendar-wide catastrophe for patients, and for their families. Many people are afraid to go into our hospitals, the thoughts of being left on a trolley, the thoughts of being left in such un-dignified and degrading conditions, sitting on a chair if you’re lucky in an A&E department….that’s the daily reality.”