THE Mid West Hospital Campaign is calling on the government to declare an emergency as University Hospital Limerick continues to face severe overcrowding.
The call came at a public meeting held by the campaign group this week.
The group is campaigning for the restoration of A&E departments in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s hospitals to reduce overcrowding levels at UHL.
Noeleen Moran of the Mid West Hospital Campaign Group opened the two-hour meeting, which was chaired by journalist Andrew Hamilton, outlining the campaign’s objectives.
“We are calling for a proper healthcare service for the people of the Mid-West. We want this crisis in health to be declared an emergency so that the Government will prioritise it and take decisive action on it.
“We want to see investment put back into our public hospitals. We want the Emergency Departments in Ennis, Nenagh and St. John’s to be re-opened.
“We want an end to the staffing and recruiting embargoes. We want a root and branch reform of the HSE,” she asserted.
26 people spoke from the floor expressing their dissatisfaction with the Government, the Minister for Health and local politicians.
Some shared their personal experiences including campaigner Marie McMahon who spoke of her husband who passed away on a trolley at the UHL Emergency Department in April, 2018.
Marie concluded her emotional story asserting that “the 1916 Proclamation declares the Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens. It is time we demanded equal rights when it comes to the health of our citizens.”
Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley and Independent TD and Chair of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Michael Harty who were both in attendance, also gave their support to the campaign.
Addressing the campaign group, Deputy Harty advised, “in relation to this meeting tonight and what you are doing, I fully support it, but you do need to become focused about what you can do and what you can’t do. You have to be realistic about what you can do. The most immediate thing that is required in the Mid-West at the moment – it seems very simple – is a second MRI scanner for Limerick Regional Hospital. There were 60 people waiting for MRI scans last week. If those people could get their scans in a timely fashion, those people would flow through the hospital much quicker.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Dooley said he’s “prepared to work with the Committee to try to do everything we possibly can to get to a point where we have a reasonable increase in the level of beds and the levels of frontline workers.”
In a statement to Limerick Voice, University Hospital Limerick explains, “the Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick is one of the busiest in the country and has been experiencing high numbers of presentations, including many frail elderly patients.
“We regret that admitted patients have experienced long wait times in ED for a bed to become available. This is not the level of service we or the staff working in UL Hospitals Group wish to provide however we want to reassure the public that every patient in the ED continues to receive expert medical care and every effort is made to make their stay as comfortable as possible.”
“Bed capacity at UHL remains considerably below that of comparable hospitals in Ireland. Work on the €19.5million 60-bed ward block is underway at UHL and it is envisaged these beds will be operational for winter 2020. The 60-bed block project will help us begin to address our acknowledged deficits in bed capacity but further work is needed.”
Speaking about the restortion of A&E services at Ennis, Nenagh, and St. John’s Hospitals, the statement continues, “UL Hospitals Group manages appropriate activity in its smaller hospitals in line with national policy and this will continue to be the case. Opening 24-7 Emergency Departments in any of the hospitals concerned would require a redesignation of the hospital and would also require significant investment in intensive care, high dependency, emergency theatre/anaesthetic facilities, advanced diagnostics and much more besides. Current difficulties in recruiting consultants are also a factor here when you consider that some of the largest teaching hospitals in the country cannot fill posts at present.
“It must also be noted that opening a 24-7 ED in any of the three hospitals would not add a single bed to the Group’s overall capacity. Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospital typically operate at full capacity, while UHL typically operates above its capacity. In spite of measures taken to ensure UL Hospitals Group uses its bedstock efficiently (the Group has the shortest average length of stay and the lowest readmission rates in the country), the reality is that there is insufficient bed capacity to support the needs of the MidWest.”