Patients moved from trolleys at Limerick hospital after fire inspection
UL Hospitals Group has defended its record and blamed overcrowding on a bed shortage
There were 85 patients waiting for admission to University Hospital Limerick last Monday morning, a record for overcrowding in any Irish hospital.
Patients on trolleys have been transferred out of University Hospital Limerick’s overcrowded emergency department (ED), following an inspection by the local fire authority.
A senior officer from Limerick City and County Fire and Rescue Service made an unannounced visit to the hospital on Tuesday night after concerns were raised about the number of trolleys in corridors.
On Monday, 85 patients were recorded on trolleys in the ED and on wards, the highest figure ever recorded for any Irish hospital.
Following the fire officer’s visit, a number of patients on trolleys were transferred out of the ED to a surgical assessment unit between midnight Tuesday and 1am Wednesday.
Mary Fogarty of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) described the overcrowded conditions in the Limerick ED as “unsafe” for both patients and staff.
She said “eight patients on trolleys” were moved out of the ED to free up space on corridors, following a visit by a fire officer.
“We welcome the fire officer’s intervention. We understand he was in the hospital last night and we believe the whole hospital needs to be assessed in terms of fire safety regulations, where there is overcrowding,” Ms Fogarty said.
“We asked management, at our most recent meeting on November 13th to bring a fire officer onto the wards, and we wanted a report regarding fire safety. We have asked for that in the past. We are still waiting for that.”
“Most wards would have 30-35 patients and there would only be three nurses there, so how complaint are they with what would need to happen in an emergency, in an evacuation in a fire?,” she claimed.
In response, a UL Hospitals Group spokesman said: “We can confirm that, in accordance with the hospital’s escalation plan, additional surge capacity was opened overnight in the acute surgical assessment unit.”
The spokesman said 78 patients was the “maximum number who may be present within the specified areas of the ED”.
“This does not include ambulant patients who are waiting in either the main waiting area or any of the sub-waiting areas within the ED.”
In 2009, all 24-hour emergency department services in Nenagh and Ennis and St Johns Limerick were centralised to UHL.
A €19.5m temporary 60-bed block, currently being built on the hospitals grounds, is expected to be operational in late 2020.
The hospital group has defended its record on admitting and discharging patients, saying its problems are due to a lack of bed capacity.
The University of Limerick Hospitals Group says HSE figures show it accounts for a disproportionately low number of delayed transfers of care of well patients and lost bed days relative to other groups.
The group says it does not have enough bed capacity to deal with a catchment of around 400,000.
“In absolute terms and per head of population, patients in the mid-west are less likely than anywhere else in the country to experience a delayed transfer of care from hospital,”, a ULHG spokesman said.
“Longstanding and ongoing collaboration between acute and community sectors continues to ensure that the mid-west performs well in terms of delayed transfers of care,” he explained.
“At any point in time over the past year, University Hospital Limerick accounts for approximately 2 per cent of the total bed days lost through delayed transfers of care in the country.”
In addition, “UL Hospitals Group has for a number of years now had the shortest average length of stay for both medical and surgical patients”.
UL Hospitals Group - which includes University Hospital Limerick; St Johns; Nenagh; Ennis, was the best performing hospital group in the country - apart from the three children’s hospitals - for delayed patient discharge rates, he added.
Figures provided by the HSE to Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly show ULHG accounted for 352 out of 8,737 delayed transfers of care nationally so far this year. The group accounted for 7,130 of 197,160 bed days lost nationally due to these delayed transfers of care this year.