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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C

'Patients at risk': Nurses ask health committee to investigate overcrowding at Limerick hospital

The letter states the hospital is in a ‘constant state of overcrowding’.

THE IRISH NURSES AND Midwives Organisation have written to Oireachtas Health Committee members urging them to urgently investigate the overcrowding situation at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

Yesterday, there were 81 patients on trolleys at UHL waiting admission to a hospital bed, which it said is the highest daily figure recorded in an Irish hospital. 

Discrepancy over two sets of figures was a cause for concern for Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday. 

During the morning’s 8am count at UHL, the HSE said it counted 39 patients waiting for a bed on trolleys at the hospital. 

However, the INMO count, which was carried out at the same time, counted 81 people waiting on beds – more than twice the HSE’s figure. 

A spokesperson for Harris said he would raise the issue of a “significant discrepancy” between both parties’ figures at a previously planned meeting today.

Pressures facing staff

However, a letter sent by nurses to TDs and senators sitting on health committee outlines the pressures medical staff face on the wards of the hospital. 

The letter, seen by, requests an urgent hearing before thee committee on the “most serious matters”. 

It outlines that patients are at “high risk” due to the overcrowding issues at the hospital, with the correspondence stating the hospital is in a “constant state of overcrowding with 50-75 patients daily waiting for beds”.

The recent decision to close 17 bed ward to convert to fracture clinic is one of the main causes of concerns for nurses, with the letter stating that the hospital continuously fails to adhere to national emergency department escalation policy and remains “constantly in full capacity protocol”.

“The consequence of hospital wide overcrowding is nurses struggle to provide safe care as they cannot adequately monitor and assess patients to the levels required. This is due to inadequate staffing and extra trolleys on wards and in emergency department,” states the letter. 

The union states there are plenty of meetings with management, but there is “no engagement of substance”. They add that none of the recently funded HSE initiatives are working on site.


The letter to committee states that the additional winter funding provided by the HSE “appears to have had no impact and failed to reduce overcrowding”.

While the nurses said “the crisis is impacting on patients and putting them at risk. It is also affecting the health and safety of our members and we would appreciate a hearing on these matters”.

The letter was also read out in the Dáil today by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, who said what staff describe in Limerick “amounts to an unsafe hospital for patients”. 

“This is not a winter problem anymore it is an all year round problem,” he said. 

Responding, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the unit with the 17 bed closures is to facilitate the completion of a new fracture centre, and reading out a statement from the hospital group, stated that the staff were “fully involved” in the process.

Coveney said the new fracture clinic will have a “significant benefit” to patients. He added that the government is trying to invest in new resources, such as the fracture centre, but at the same time hospitals must “manage pressures” on wards. Coveney said new plans can’t be abandoned. 

He said the hospital group maintains it offset the pressure of closing the 17 beds, by opening 22 beds in another area of the hospital. 

The Tánaiste said one of the key solutions for UHL is additional beds, which is why the government has dedicated an additional €2 million, which will be used to complete a 60-bed modular ward.

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