Near-record crowding in Limerick hospital after infection outbreak

Minister for Health makes unannounced visit as 76 patients lie on trolleys at UHL

Simon Harris, Minister for Health, saw the construction work of a 60-bed block during his visit to University Hospital Limerick. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Simon Harris, Minister for Health, saw the construction work of a 60-bed block during his visit to University Hospital Limerick. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

An outbreak of a gastrointestinal bug and a rise in frail older patients seeking treatment have been blamed for near-record levels of overcrowding in the emergency department of University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

Minister for Health Simon Harris made a surprise visit to the emergency department on Wednesday, where 76 patients were waiting for admission to the hospital in the morning. The record for overcrowding in UHL, and for any Irish hospital, is 81 patients.

While such high trolley numbers are unusual in summer, the hospital says it has experienced high numbers of presentation in recent days, including many frail elderly patients.

Last week, an average of more than 220 patients turned up at the emergency department, compared with a daily average last year of 197.

A spokesman said the hospital was facing additional pressures accessing transitional care and home care package funding for patients who were fit to be discharged. Currently, there are 42 delayed discharges in the UL Hospitals Group – twice the average level.

Ten beds were closed on Wednesday morning due to the gastrointestinal outbreak that began last week. The hospital said the highly infectious norovirus had been confirmed in some patients but eight of the beds had reopened.

Nine patients carrying the CPE superbug were in UHL, but none were in the emergency department, it said. “CPE is endemic in the midwest and it is only to be expected that a number of inpatients will be CPE-positive at any one time.”

A new 60-bed block is being built in Limerick but will not open until the end of next year. Mr Harris viewed the construction works during his visit.