UHL: ‘Lack of beds and lack of dignity’

A PATIENT who was left on a chair and trolley for over three days at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has spoken of the indignity she endured while waiting for a bed in the country’s busiest emergency ward.

The record for the highest-ever level of overcrowding at any hospital in the country was broken once again at University Hospital Limerick late last month when a record 85 patients were without beds.

It is the third time in a year that UHL has set a new overcrowding record. 

Speaking from her bed in a shared ward, the woman recounted her recent experience being admitted to UHL, and the time it took to secure a bed.

“I had no privacy whatsoever,” she claimed. “There was no bathroom near me. I never got offered a drink of water or anything.”

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, spent 12 and a half hours on a chair in A&E, before being put on a trolley for a further two and a half days.

“I came in with a bowel obstruction, as I’ve had bowel surgery in the past, and at one point the nurse wanted to give me an enema, while I was on the trolley. I absolutely refused because of the indignity and the fact that I was nowhere near a bathroom,” she added.

On a previous emergency admittance, the patient who had a colostomy due to bowel surgery, claimed she was examined on a corridor without any screen around her.

“Only that I was so sick, I didn’t object. Doctors came and examined me and did an ECG, where my chest was exposed on a corridor with men and visitors all around the place,” she said.

A spokesperson from UHL said every effort to minimise overcrowding in the ED is made: “If the number of patients awaiting admission in the ED is of concern, then a third trolley will be placed on some wards to avail of the first vacated bed following discharge of patients from that ward. This measure has formed part of our escalation plan for a considerable period of time and is not a recent development.”

Last week fire safety regulations were invoked by Limerick Fire Service at UHL so that patients on trolleys could be moved out of the overcrowded emergency department.

Speaking at a recent Public Meeting to highlight the overcrowding at UHL, Sinn Féin spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said the fears people have in Limerick are “very, very real.”

According to Limerick TD Maurice Quinlivan people are sick of being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to healthcare.

The Sinn Fein TD said the number of patients on trolleys in UHL in October 2011 was 367.

“Now after almost a decade of incompetence, the number of patients on trolleys in UHL in the month of October has quadrupled to 1,450,” he said.

“It’s a total joke, people are being packed into UHL like sardines, and it has created a very dangerous situation. How do we expect nurses and doctors to work effectively in such overcrowded conditions, which can see over 80 patients on trolleys at the hospital on some days.”

He is calling on the current government to take responsibility and to find a solution to the crisis.

“The Minister for Health Simon Harris must intervene in UHL now, before the situation escalates any further.”

UHL scored below the national average in every stage of care, according to the third annual National Patient Experience Survey (NPES).

The NPES surveyed a total of 26,897 inpatients earlier this year, in a bid to measure the performance of every public hospital and to highlight positive experiences and areas of improvement.

Limerick Voice 2019 newspaper is available today in all copies of the Limerick Leader.

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