Mid West Hospital Campaign representatives are concerned that the reopening of A&E’s could be shelved in favour of suggested ‘surgical hub’
By Ellen Cornelius
Local politicians and campaigners have been reacting to an open letter penned by consultants at University Hospital Limerick last week, which blamed overcrowding at the hospital on “the withdrawal of direct emergency hospital care” at Ennis, Nenagh and St. John’s Hospitals in 2009, and called for the establishment of a “scheduled care surgical hub” in the Midwest to relieve pressure on UHL services.
The letter, circulated by the Limerick Leader, called on the Minister for Health to source additional resources for the hospital and asked politicians to “honour their commitments to the people of the Midwest and address the chronic under-resourcing of the region”.
The Limerick Voice spoke to several local political representatives, who supported the action taken by hospital consultants but did not comment on their call for a new surgical hub.
Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan supports their call for “urgent intervention” to ensure the “safe and clinically effective” use of the hospital’s emergency department, which is currently seeing 240 patients a day – despite being constructed for just 190.
Asked how Midwest politicians can best work together to solve the issue, Mr Quinlivan said, “In the immediate future, there needs to be an agreement on how to respond to overcrowding and capacity issues. In my view, all public and private capital health resources should be utilised to ease the pressure on the hospitals and to ensure quality care for affected patients.”
Limerick City Labour Cllr Elena Secas also spoke of the need for unity, telling the Limerick Voice, “I think that’s the only way we can achieve something is by working together regardless of our political affiliation, regardless of whether you’re a politician or not, we need to work together as a community, as a city and as a region to address these issues because they are affecting everybody.”
“We need to work together as a community, as a city and as a region to address these issues because they are affecting everybody.”
The Mid West Hospital Campaign (MWHC) welcomes the support of demoralised UHL consultants, but has raised concerns that “even though they recognised that closing three Midwest emergency departments led to the direct overcrowding of UHL, they didn’t ask for them to be reinstated”.
Melanie Sheehan, who spoke to the Limerick Voice on behalf of the MWHC, says the closure of St. John’s Hospital’s A&E department is what caused her 21-year-old daughter Eve Cleary, who died in 2019 four hours after being discharged from UHL, to feel that she “had nowhere else to go” but UHL.
When asked if the campaign supported the opening of a surgical hub as the letter outlined, Ms Sheehan said, “No, we don’t think that would be needed if they reopened the three A&Es (Ennis, Nenagh and St. Johns Hospital)”. She added that UL Hospitals Group “don’t seem to be able to grasp that these closures have quite literally caused the deaths of our loved ones”.
“In most cases, our loved ones had problems that didn’t need surgery. Eve needed treatment for a blood clot, which could have been offered at St. John’s Hospital.“
Speaking for families impacted by UHL overcrowding, Ms Sheehan added, “In most cases, our loved ones had problems that didn’t need surgery. Eve needed treatment for a blood clot, which could have been offered at St. John’s Hospital.”
The letter, signed by 87 top UHL consultants, came less than a week after 11,000 people marched through the streets of Limerick in protest against the chaotic conditions seen at the hospital’s emergency department in 2022, which reached a breaking point during Christmas and caused a ‘major internal incident’ to be declared there.