Marie McMahon, a member of the Mid West Hospital Campaign, provided an estimated number of lives lost due to then overcrowding crisis in University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
Last Thursday, November 16, the Mid West Hospital Campaign sat before the Oireachtas to discuss the reopening of the Emergency Departments (EDs) at Nenagh, Ennis, and St John’s Hospitals.
The campaigners aim to restore adequate health services to their areas and ease the burden on University Hospital Limerick, which is Ireland’s most overcrowded hospital.
The campaign was represented by Noeleen Moran, Hillary Tonge, Marie McMahon, and Tricia Delaney.
Noeleen Moran was the first to make her opening statement: “We don’t believe that there is any politician in the country who is unaware of what is happening at the ED in UHL.”
“15,000 signed our petition calling for our A&Es to be reopened because the public recognise, like us, that this could be any member of their families a mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter, grandparent, or grandchild, sick in need of care at any given point, put at risk because of the failings of the healthcare strategy in the Midwest.
“Our communities know that people are dying as a consequence, because people we know have died because of this failed health strategy. Family members of the deceased are present with us today. “
Noeleen Moran claimed that Stephen Donnelly preferred “massaging the numbers” of a “failed” reconfiguration strategy, which she says he admitted was failing before he became Health Minister.
Senator Paul Gavan agreed that Minister Donnelly’s shift from using INMO figures signalled a decline in good faith self-assessment by the Government. Pat Buckley TD put into question who was advising the Government against “common sense” solutions to the healthcare crisis in the Mid-West region.
Approximately 514 lives may have been lost due to extensive waiting times on trolleys in UHL
Marie McMahon provided an estimate calculated by the Mid West Hospital Campaign group regarding the number of lives lost due to then overcrowding crisis in UHL.
“514 dead,” Marie said. “That is a shocking and unforgivable number. Yet, that is the minimum number of deaths the Mid West Hospital Campaign estimate has happened in our region at the only Emergency Department, University Hospital Limerick since our petition with over 15,000 signatures was first submitted to this committee on 21 June 2022.”
The research that led to this estimate was carried out in England by distinguished emergency care experts in England in 2019. Dr Chris Moulton and Dr Cliff Mann, who were involved in the study, had been President and Vice President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine respectively, with Dr Mann formerly acting as the National Health Service’s National Clinical Advisor for Accident and Emergency Care.
The research, as reported in The Guardian at the time, claimed that there was a correlation between time spent on a trolley and increased risk of death. One in 83 died after waiting six hours on a trolley, and one in 30 died after waiting 11 hours on a trolley.
The research found that increased risk of death was “solely caused by the length of wait and not by the patient’s condition,” according to The Guardian.
“No wonder people have said time and time again ‘Do not take me to Limerick ED if I am ill. I would rather die in my own home, in my own bed, than on a trolley,’ and I wish I had done that for my husband,” Ms McMahon said with palpable emotion.
The campaigner’s husband died on a trolley in April 2018.
Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, and their ticking timebomb
Hillary Tonge stated that the population of Limerick has grown by eight per cent since 2016, and that Project Ireland had envisaged a population growth of 50 to 60 per cent by 2040, which the health services in the region are currently not “catered for”, resulting in the need for the reopening of the surrounding Emergency Departments in Ennis, St John’s, and Nenagh.
The group was asked multiple times which Emergency Department should be reopened should the situation arise where they need to pick. Michael McNamara TD responded rhetorically: “Which one would you like to open? Which one would you like to close in West Dublin?”
“Nobody asks that question,” he remarked.
Richard O’Donoghue TD said that when he needed medical care, he had asked not to go to UHL and instead went to Ennis. Due to constraints in Ennis regarding a particular test, he had to be sent to UHL where he claims he spent two days on a trolley.
He criticised the Government’s approach and asked that when the next election cycle comes around, people remember which politicians refused to respond to the crisis by “covering up” their mistakes.
In response to these claims by the Mid West Hospital Campaign members, UL Hospital Group has released a statement, which reads: “UL Hospitals Group rejects the assertion by the Mid-West Hospital Campaign that 514 patients have died as a direct result of delays in the Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick (UHL). The claim is not evidence-based, with the numbers calculated on the basis, primarily, of research undertaken at least four years ago in another jurisdiction.
“Without prejudice to the bona fides of the respected authors of that research, the unscientific use of their work to project hospital mortality in a specific region of another jurisdiction, and present this as the conclusion of “extensive research”, is misleading and unhelpful.The most recent available research into hospital mortality in this country is the National Audit of Hospital Mortality 2021, published by the National Office of Clinical Audit (NOCA) in July of 2023 (and available online at this link). In the clinical areas highlighted across the 44 hospitals audited, UHL is within the expected range for in-hospital mortality.”
More information about the Mid West Hospital Campaign to come as further news develops.