Varadkar told UHL campaigners that “nothing is ruled out” when it comes to opening more emergency departments in the Midwest
By Ríona Maguire
Just days after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s visit to University Hospital Limerick, the number of patients recorded on trolleys in the hospital hit the highest levels of 2023.
Figures published this week by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) show that 109 patients were left waiting on trolleys across the hospital.
Out of the 109 patients waiting for a bed, 49 are in the Emergency Department with 60 people waiting in other wards. This is the highest number of patients waiting for beds after being admitted to the hospital so far this year, despite enormous pressure faced by the Irish health system back in January.
Taoiseach Varadkar met campaigners at UHL, who have been calling for better conditions at the hospital, on Friday while on a visit to the site of a new €190 million Bon Secours private hospital in Ballysimon.
He told them “nothing is ruled out” when it comes to reopening emergency departments in a bid to try and solve the overcrowding and trolley numbers crisis in hospitals.
This is despite earlier comments he made about it being an “impossible” task to reopen three former A&Es in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospital, which closed in 2009.
“Yes, that’s definitely not the plan – when I talk to the doctors and the emergency doctors, and they are the ones we take our advice from when it comes to these matters, what they say to me is that we have too many emergency departments (EDs) in Ireland, and not too few,” Varadkar told reporters prior to the meeting when asked if he was definitely ruling out the reopening of the former Midwest A&Es.
However, Noleen Moran, of the Mid-West Hospital Campaign group, claims the Taoiseach said otherwise when he met with the group privately.
“He said he would never rule anything out, that’s the response he gave to us,” Ms Moran said.
Varadkar’s meeting with the Midwest Hospital Campaign comes against a backdrop of consistently high trolley numbers at UHL despite months of efforts to tackle the problem.
Noreen Spillane, Chief Operations Officer of UL Hospitals Group, commented: “This was a welcome opportunity to set out our plans for service development and to inform the Taoiseach of our longer-term strategic approach in meeting the needs of our growing and rapidly ageing population.
“We focused in particular on our continuing bed capacity challenge in the Midwest; on the various options to reduce waiting lists for public patients and improving access to scheduled care; and on the development of new integrated care pathways with our community colleagues in line with the Sláintecare reforms.
“We acknowledge the support of the government in recent years. Since the start of the pandemic, we have added 98 inpatient beds and 10 critical care beds at UHL and the total numbers employed by the Group has increased by over 1,000. We will continue to work with Government and the HSE to increase bed capacity and staffing levels,” Ms Spillane said.