Members of the Mid-West Hospital Campaign claim approximately 514 lives have been lost due to the overcrowding crisis in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) – a figure the UL Hospitals Group have rejected.
UL Hospitals Group has rejected claims by the Mid-West Hospital Campaign that 514 patients have died as a result of delays in the Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
Earlier this week, campaign members were accompanied by bereaved families when they sat before the Dáil Petitions Committee to discuss the reopening of the Emergency Departments (EDs) at Nenagh, Ennis, and St John’s Hospitals.
In their presentation to the committee, members outlined the number of deaths they believe have taken place in one year due to the lack of Emergency Departments (ED) serving the Mid-West region.
Speaking to the Committee Clare campaign member Marie McMahon claimed 514 people have died.
“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 figures were based on research carried out by Dr Chris Moulton (vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine consultant in emergency medicine at the European Society for Emergency Medicine, and senior lecturer at the University of Manchester from 1994 to 2000) and the late Dr Cliff Mann (former president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and NHS national clinical advisor for accident and emergency care).
The research put a figure on the number of extra deaths that happen when patients, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, spend excessive time on trolleys waiting for an in-hospital bed.
Responding to the claims, UL Hospitals Group said the assertation 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 statement read.
According to UL Hospital Group, 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).
“In the clinical areas highlighted across the 44 hospitals audited, UHL is within the expected range for in-hospital mortality,” the statement continued.
The Mid-West Hospital Campaign group 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 campaigners were represented at the Dail Committee hearing by Noeleen Moran, Hillary Tonge, Marie McMahon, and Tricia Delaney.
In her opening statement Noeleen Moran said: “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 Minister 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.
Campaigner 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. Ms Tonge claimed that the health services in the region are currently not “catered for” as it stands, resulting in the need for the reopening of the surrounding Emergency Departments in Ennis, St John’s, and Nenagh.
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 the long waits in the Emergency Department the UL Hospital Group apologised to patients and their loved ones and admitted “it is not standard of care we wish to provide.”
The UL Hospitals Group also confirmed it has made no plans to open its Medical Assessment Units on a 24/7 basis. However, the group did comment on the national funding of €5.2m allocated in the past year, which has enabled the Group to move the units in all three of our Model 2 hospitals at Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s from five-day to seven-day services.
Further updates from the Mid-West Hospital Campaign and UHL overcrowding crisis will be provided as news develops.