'Crisis' claimed at Limerick hospital


The main union representing nurses has called for an urgent review of services at a Limerick hospital, claiming that patient care is now “severely compromised” by overcrowding.

The Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO) said some 45 patients were currently waiting for a hospital bed, including 11 patients “behind doors” or on corridors in already full wards.

A further 24 patients are in the emergency department, and 10 are in a transit lounge.

According to the union, an additional 135 beds were required at the hospital as part of a “reconfiguration” of services in the mid west over the last 18 months. It said these had not been provided.

Separately, the union expressed concern about overcrowding at Naas General Hospital in Co Kildare, claiming patient safety could be put at risk as a result.

The union said it had predicted the closure of beds in Ennis and Nenagh would cause “huge difficulties” for Limerick without the implementation of this key recommendation of the Teamwork consultants’ report.

That claim had been rejected by the HSE, the union said in a statement today.

“Hospital staff and patients have been left to cope with chaos every day and an inability to give a quality and safe service," the union said. “The overcrowding, shortage of nursing staff and the unsafe clinical environment are a major cause of concern to INMO members at the hospital.”

Patient care was now “severely compromised”. The union called on the Health Information and Quality Authority to undertake an urgent review of services at the Limerick hospital, following its recommendations in a review of Ennis General Hospital which it said was central to the HSE argument to close beds.

The HSE said this evening claims by the nursing union did not reflect a true picture of patients awaiting admission at the hospital today. It said there were 24 patients, and not 45, awaiting admission at 8am.

"The balance of 21 patients had been properly admitted and were being cared for as in-patients either in wards or in the transit lounge. At 2pm today, that figure of 24 patients awaiting admission had further reduced to 14. This reflects the fact that the normal flow and procedures within the hospital means that at any given time there are people waiting for admission to the hospital."

The HSE said over 61,000 people would be treated at the emergency department this year - almost 170 cases a day. It said the reconfiguration was now "well underway" and was providing "a much safer service to the people of the region".

"We have no wish or desire to return to a situation which pertained previously where lives were lost as a result of inappropriate care provision."

The executive said management had been "open and honest" with public sector unions through a series of ongoing briefings and meetings about the need to adjust work practices and service provision in light of the "limited resources" allocated to the hospital.

"We are continuing this process under the chairmanship of the LRC and it is disappointing that the nursing unions have decided not to partake in these consultations."

The Teamwork consultancy report published last year formed the basis of a HSE implementation plan that resulted in the overhaul of services in the Midwest.

The HSE plan said it was difficult to justify 24-hour A&E services at Ennis and Nenagh hospitals in terms of value for money, longer-term sustainability and governance.

The document said the dependency on locums at both hospitals, as well as the obvious expense, was hard to justify, particularly given the small number of emergency services which were provided.

In relation to Naas General Hospital, the nursing union said there were 19 patients on trolleys today awaiting a bed. Last week, the number had peaked at 35.

“The pressure on all staff throughout the hospital is enormous and there is genuine concern that patient care may be put at risk,” the union said.

It called for a lifting of the national recruitment embargo and the appointment of 16 nurses to Naas hospital as a matter of urgency.