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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020
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Patients on trolleys moved from overcrowded Limerick ED after unannounced fire officer visit

The senior fire officer visited after concerns were raised about the number of trolleys in corridors in the ED.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff

PATIENTS ON TROLLEYS have been transferred out of University Hospital Limerick’s overcrowded Emergency Department (ED), following an inspection by the Limerick fire authority, Limerick City and County Fire and Rescue Service.

A senior fire officer made an unannounced visit at UHL last night after concerns were raised about the number of trolleys in corridors in the ED.

On Monday, 85 patients were recorded on trolleys the ED (55) and on ward (30).

Following the fire officer’s visit, a number of patients on trolleys were transferred out of the ED to a Surgical Assessment Unit between midnight and 1am this morning.

Mary Fogarty, Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) described the overcrowded conditions in the Limerick ED as “unsafe” for both patients and staff.

She said she understood that “eight patients on trolleys” were moved out of the ED to free up space on corridors, following a visit by a fire officer.

“We welcome the fire officer’s intervention. We understand he was in the hospital last night and we believe the whole hospital needs to be assessed in terms of fire safety regulations, where there is overcrowding,” Fogarty said.

Our members are concerned about the ability to deliver care to patients. It is unsafe, because there aren’t enough staff there to cater or look after that cohort of patients, so there are safety concerns for patients and there are safety concerns if in the event of an evacuation – a lot of those patients wouldn’t be able to walk out.

“We asked management, at our most recent meeting on November 13th to bring a fire officer onto the wards, and we wanted a report regarding fire safety. We have asked for that in the past. We are still waiting for that,” she said.

In response, a UL Hospitals Group spokesperson said: “We can confirm that, in accordance with the hospital’s escalation plan, additional surge capacity was opened overnight in the Acute Surgical Assessment Unit.”

A fire risk assessment was carried out by independent consultant engineers prior to the ED’s opening in May 2017.

The spokesperson said “78 patients” was the “maximum number who may be present within the specified areas of the ED”.

“This does not include ambulant patients who are waiting in either the main waiting area or any of the sub-waiting areas within the ED,” they said.

UL Hospitals works daily to adhere to criteria as set out in this independent report, however, in the absence of sufficient bed capacity, this remains an ongoing challenge.

“UL Hospitals Group is in regular contact and is committed to working with Limerick City and County Council in relation to these matters. ED staff are trained on what to do in the event of a fire.”

The Limerick ED was “extremely busy in recent days” they added.

“The latest available data shows that in the 24 hours prior to 8am this Wednesday morning, a total of 197 patients had attended the hospital’s ED. On Tuesday that figure was 244 presentations,” they said.

We regret that any patient has to wait on a trolley for admission. This is not the level of service we wish to provide but we want to reassure the public that every effort is made to move patients to a bed as soon as possible.

In 2009, all 24-hour emergency department services in Nenagh and Ennis and St Johns were centralised to UHL.

A €19.5 million temporary 60-bed block, currently being built on the hospitals grounds, is expected to be operational in Q4 of 2020.

Funding for a permanent 96-bed block has also been sought by the hospital group.

“We urge the public to keep the ED for emergencies only,” the hospital spokesperson added.

Local injury units are operating Monday to Friday, including Ennis and Nenagh (8am-8pm) and St John’s Limerick (8am-6pm).

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David Raleigh

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