Limerick hospital has ‘worst ever’ number of patients on trolleys

UHL sets new record for overcrowding with 81 patients waiting for beds

A new record was set for hospital overcrowding on Wednesday morning at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), with nurses counting 81 patients waiting in the emergency department and on wards for beds.

The figure, recorded as part of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) TrolleyWatch, surpassed a previous national record of 80 set in Limerick last year. Nurses at UHL said the number increased between 8am and noon from 81 to 92 people waiting.

The INMO said there were 594 people waiting on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards across the State on Wednesday. There were 50 people waiting for a bed at Cork University Hospital and 43 at University Hospital Galway.

UHL’s €25 million emergency department has had consistent problems with overcrowding since it opened in June 2017. It is the only facility in the region where such services are available on a 24-hour basis and serves a catchment area of some 400,000 people between Limerick, Clare, Tipperary and parts of north Cork.


Mary Fogarty, INMO representative, said overcrowding was a “demoralising” thing for staff to face. “Doctors are examining patients on corridors and nurses are trying to administer care on the corridors. It’s dangerous.”

Ms Fogarty said UHL had opened 22 beds to offset 17 recent bed closures in an attempt to address the problem but that at least 160 additional beds were needed. She said some staff were concerned for patient safety as trolleys were blocking fire exits.

Rejected claims

Prof Paul Burke, UL Hospital Group’s chief clinical director, rejected claims that fire escapes were blocked at the hospital and said there was a maximum of 29 people trolleys on the UHL wards.

“It is not a crisis, it is something we deal with all the time and we have to deal with,” he told RTÉ’s News at One.

He urged members of the public, where possible, to attend local injury units instead of coming to the UHL emergency department.

UHL patient Marie Gleeson (68) said she was “sore” after spending the night on a trolley in a corridor in the emergency department.

Ms Gleeson, who lives in Tipperary, praised the efforts of staff in the hospital but said it was a “disgrace that they’re run off their feet in here, and there’s not enough beds, and not enough facilities”.

“I’ve been sitting on a trolley in a corridor in A&E, and it’s so uncomfortable, I’ve pains in my back and shoulders,” she said. “People are on drips sitting on chairs.”

The Government has allocated €2 million for enabling works for a proposed €19.5 million temporary 60-bed inpatient block at UHL. Management has also sought funding for a permanent 96-bed unit, which the Government is yet to sign off on.