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Support team to begin work ‘immediately’ to address overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he is ‘concerned about ongoing pressures’ in the Mid West region.

THE HSE HAS established a support team which will get to work “immediately” to address pressures on health services in the Mid West region, particularly within University Hospital Limerick.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the support team should “deliver improvements for patients quickly”.

The support team is made up of the HSE’s National Director Grace Rothwell, director of nursing and integration at Waterford University Hospital Orla Kavanagh, and retired emergency medicine consultant Dr Fergal Hickey.

UHL has frequently been in the news in recent months and often tops the INMO’s Trolley Watch figures for the number of patients waiting in emergency departments or wards without beds.

Two reviews have also been launched into deaths that have occurred within the hospital this year.

The HSE launched a review into the death of a woman in her 30s who died in February soon after presenting as unwell at UHL and going through a miscarriage. 

Additionally, the UHL Hospital Group launched an internal investigation into the death of a 16-year-old girl who died in the hospital in January.

Meanwhile, a verdict of medical misadventure was returned at the inquest into the death of teenager Aoife Johnston at the hospital in December 2022.

She died of bacterial meningitis on 19 December 2022 after a 12-hour wait in the overcrowded emergency department of University Hospital Limerick.

Aoife had initially presented to the hospital on 17 December, and was eventually admitted to intensive care, but passed away shortly after.

Speaking earlier this week, HSE chief executive Bernard Gloster said the health service “failed” Aoife Johnston and that failure “led to her death”, but that UHL is “much more safe now”.

In a statement this evening following the announcement of the support team for the Mid West region, Gloster said the HSE is “conscious of the pressures in various hospitals regarding the number of patients on trolleys awaiting admission”.

He added that this is recognised as a “key safety concern” and that a “variety of ongoing assurances are necessary in such situations”.

Gloster said the HSE would use its “own internal mechanisms to support the Mid West Region for the next number of weeks” and that the support team will work with the Regional Executive Officer, Public Health and UL Hospitals to manage patient flow and de-escalate the current pressures.

Meanwhile, Health minister Stephen Donnelly said he is “concerned about the ongoing pressures on health services in the region, particularly in the Emergency Department at UHL”.

He noted the need to “provide reassurance to the people of the Mid West region and address the very serious pressures on the services”.

While Donnelly said a number of interventions have been made, had added that the support team “should deliver an improvement for patients quickly”.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has said that “any measures to alleviate the pressure” in the Mid West region is to be welcomed but remarked that “the only measure of success for patients in the Mid West will be permanently reducing the number of patients on trolleys”.

Last month, The Journal asked readers to get in touch and share their experiences of UHL.

One reader told of their 93-year-old mother who spent 14 hours in the Emergency Department, while another said it was a “miracle” that she managed to get in and out of A&E at UHL in five hours.

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