HSE warned of legal action over Limerick hospital fire safety

Executive has long acknowledged A&E at University Hospital ‘not fit-for-purpose’

The HSE has been warned by fire authorities in Limerick that it could face legal proceedings if University Hospital Limerick continues to breach its own fire safety risk assessment threshold of having more than 44 patients in its Emergency Department at any one time.

Michael Ryan, Chief Fire Officer for the Limerick region, told a monthly meeting of metropolitan city and county councillors on Monday, that the hospital had exceeded its own patient safety threshold targets at the emergency department. The HSE said the Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Limerick inspected the unit on October 23rd, 2016, and “expressed concerns about levels of overcrowding in the ED”.

It said the department was “extremely busy” at the time “with attendances of approximately 162 patients”.

It added it has “long acknowledged the emergency department at UHL . . . is not fit-for-purpose”. A new state-of-the-art emergency department is due to open in May.



Since last October the fire service and UHL have been jointly monitoring the situation, the council meeting heard. “Forty-four is what the maximum number of [patients] should be in the A&E. Enforcement action is always an option and it’s an issue we have raised with the management team,” Mr Ryan said.

“That’s what we have told them; that we may have to take enforcement action if things don’t improve.” Mr Ryan revealed that as the emergency department was constructed prior to the 1990 Building Control Regulation Act it did not need a fire safety certificate.

However, the hospital must adhere, like all other premises, to the Fire Services Act 1981, which requires premises owners to take “all reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire”, as well as ensuring “as far as is reasonably practicable the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire.”

The Act further states that anyone found guilty of being in contravention of the Act “shall be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding £10,000 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both the fine and the imprisonment.”


Mr Ryan added: “At the moment we are getting good co-operation from the [hospital] management team; we are monitoring it on an ongoing basis; we have regular management team meetings with them, and the focus is good up to the present time.”

In response, the hospital stated: “UL Hospitals Group is engaging with the Fire Authority in Limerick on the management of patients within the emergency department. Every effort is being made to ensure compliance with the recommendations of the Fire Authority in this regard and this is continuously monitored.”

“Regular fire safety training is provided to management and staff at UL Hospitals Group, including staff in the ED.”

“UL Hospitals Group takes all matters of safety with the utmost seriousness and this includes having a robust fire safety management system in place for all of UHL, including the ED.”