Belfast Telegraph

Hospital overcrowding ‘akin to scenes after major natural disaster’

A total of 92 patients were left on trolleys waiting for a bed at University Hospital Limerick on Wednesday.

Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty described the scene in the hospital as ‘utter chaos’ (Liam McBurney/PA)
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty described the scene in the hospital as ‘utter chaos’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Chaos” at a hospital in Limerick was akin to scenes after a major natural disaster, the Dail has been told after a new record was set for hospital overcrowding.

A total of 92 patients were left on trolleys waiting for a bed at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) on Wednesday, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) Trolley Watch.

Fifty-two people were waiting in the emergency department, with 29 in wards elsewhere in the hospital.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said there were currently 76 patients left on trolleys in the hospital on Thursday.

Speaking during leaders’ questions, Mr Doherty said the figures were “absolutely scandalous”, describing the scene in the hospital as “utter chaos”.

“It would be something akin to scenes in hospital after a major natural disaster,” he said.

The reality is that while you try to talk about doing so much better, there are 531 patients on trolleys today Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein

UHL is at the centre of a row with the union after a 17-bed ward closed last week, which the INMO says is contributing to the problem.

Ward 1A was used primarily for patients who require short periods of admission.

The hospital said the closure would facilitate the completion of works on a new fracture unit.

“We were sent pictures from people in the hospital as 92 patients were lying in trolleys in wards and corridors,” Mr Doherty added.

“There was a picture of ward 1A with padlocks and a chain around the gate.

“There are 17 beds behind those doors that could accommodate those patients.

“The reality is that while you try to talk about doing so much better, there are 531 patients on trolleys today.”

Simon Coveney told the Dail that the closure of the medical ward has been “offset” by the opening of 22 beds in the hospital.

The Tanaiste said: “In relation to ward 1A, the HSE has informed me that the closure of the 17-bed medical short stay ward will facilitate the completion of work on a new fracture unit there.

We can't simply abandon plans to invest in capacity and efficiency in an effort to try and deal with the immediacy of what is a very pressurised situation in a hospital Tanaiste Simon Coveney

“The closure is in accordance with plans to redesignate the space occupied at the old emergency department.

“We can’t simply abandon plans to invest in capacity and efficiency in an effort to try and deal with the immediacy of what is a very pressurised situation in a hospital.

“The hospital advises that the closure of these 17 beds has been offset by the opening of 22 beds elsewhere in the hospital in recent weeks.

“However, it is widely agreed that a key part of the solution in Limerick is additional beds.”

Mr Doherty added that some hospitals in Ireland are being deemed “unsafe”.

“Your own hospital in Cork had to invoke status black, which means it is unsafe to admit a patient into the hospital regardless of the circumstances,” he continued.

“There is complete and utter chaos in terms of the health service.

“It isn’t just about the discomfort of not having a hospital bed, it is about the treatment and health outcomes as those in the front line are telling us that people are dying as a result of this crisis and your Government is failing to address it.”

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