Assessment conducted after death of girl (16) in University Hospital Limerick

Death follows the case of Aoife Johnston (16), who died at the hospital in December 2022

A preliminary assessment has been carried out into the death of a 16-year-old girl at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) three weeks ago.

The results of a postmortem, which are due to be communicated to her family soon, will inform any decision on whether to formally investigate the death, according to health sources. There were 113 patients on trolleys in corridors and wards at the hospital on January 29th, the day the girl died.

The girl was suffering breathing difficulties when she attended the emergency department at UHL accompanied by a family member. She had an underlying condition and had been in hospital for treatment some weeks before.

She was initially admitted to a resuscitation area but was later transferred out of it after suffering distress. When her condition deteriorated, she was returned to the resuscitation area where she later died.


Officials who are examining the care given to the girl during her stay at the hospital plan to talk to staff who treated her, some of whom were on leave last week.

UHL is consistently the most overcrowded hospital in the country. On the day of the teenager’s death there were 113 patients on trolleys, including 54 in the emergency department and 59 on wards, according to figures published by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Under the HSE Incident Management Framework, all major incidents are initially put through a preliminary assessment that then assists in classifying the seriousness of the matter.

University of Limerick Hospitals Group, which includes UHL, confirmed that a preliminary assessment into the girl’s death had been carried out in line with the framework and the findings from this would be shared with her family pending the results of the postmortem.

“This is our normal practice where a sudden death occurs in our care. We are in direct contact with the family on these matters and it would be inappropriate to comment further,” it said in a statement.

The group expressed “sincere condolences” to the family and friends of the girl who died on their “devastating loss”.

Aoife Johnston (16), from Shannon, Co Clare, who had developed meningitis, died after remaining on a trolley for 12 hours in the overcrowded UHL emergency department in December 2022. The review into her death resulted in an independent judge-led investigation taking place.

A HSE internal review found overcrowding in the hospital was “endemic”. In the weeks after Aoife’s death, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly defended the Government’s handling of the overcrowding crisis in Limerick.

Responding to a Seanad motion calling for the Coalition to do more to alleviate the pressures at UHL, Mr Donnelly said: “The core message is that we will continue to invest in UHL and in the hospital group. We will continue to invest in the workforce and in beds.

“In 2019, the hospital budget was €265 million. It is now €315 million. There has been a large increase in money, workforce and beds,” he added. “In the emergency department, extra emergency medicine consultants have been sanctioned.”

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Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times