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Nurses 'at their wits’ end': Call for investigation of overcrowding at Limerick hospital

There is a total of 428 people on trolleys across the country today, with 70 of them in University Hospital Limerick.

Image: Shutterstock/gpointstudio

A NURSES’ UNION has called for an independent review of the overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick, with a representative saying that nurses are “at their wits’ end and their morale is on the floor”.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the health watchdog Hiqa to investigate, asking the Minister for Health to intervene directly.

According to the union’s daily Trolley Watch figures, there were 44 people in Emergency Departments, 26 in wards elsewhere, meaning there are a total of 70 people on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick – the highest number in the country.

The second highest trolley number was Letterkenny University Hospital (61) and Cork University Hospital (45).

That compares to an average of 16 patients on trolleys today across 22 hospitals.

INMO assistant director of industrial relations Mary Fogarty said that since the beginning of November, there have been 891 patients on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick, with “record” overcrowding this week.

“When our members sounded the alarm on persistently dangerous overcrowding coupled with Covid-19 back in July, we called for direct ministerial intervention, which Minister Donnelly at the time stated was not required. The situation in Limerick has worsened since we first made the call.

Despite 100 extra beds opening in Limerick this year, it has made no dent in the record overcrowding. Our members are at their wits’ end and their morale is on the floor.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha added:

“The situation in University Hospital Limerick is out of control. The INMO is once again calling for Hiqa to investigate what is going on in the hospital and make clear recommendations.

“The overall picture in our hospitals is a bleak one. Covid cases and hospitalisations are at a dangerous level and this is coupled with the number of patients on trolleys in many hospitals at pre-pandemic levels.

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“The HSE and Minister for Health have both stated that overcrowding won’t be tolerated, yet here we are with 428 people on trolleys today. It is not acceptable when so many nurses are out on Covid-related leave.

“We are urgently calling on the HSE and Minister for Health to now curtail elective procedures in our acute hospitals and come to some agreement to obtain capacity from our private hospitals.

“Our members have been fire-fighting on so many fronts since January 2020, the State must do everything we can to ensure that they are carrying out their duties in a safe environment.”

Hiqa said in a statement that it notes both the worsening Covid-19 situation, and the overcrowding situation in some hospitals, including at University Hospital Limerick.

“We continue to monitor the situation, but do not have plans to initiate a specific investigation at this time.”

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