Nurse calls on Varadkar to spend five days on hospital trolley

Taoiseach and Harris invited to see people ‘dying in hospitals because of overcrowding’

 Nurse Derek Cromwell wants politicians to experience the lack of facilities at University Hospital Limerick: “We’ve been treated like crap, by the Government and the HSE.” Photograph: David Raleigh

Nurse Derek Cromwell wants politicians to experience the lack of facilities at University Hospital Limerick: “We’ve been treated like crap, by the Government and the HSE.” Photograph: David Raleigh

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been challenged by a nurse to spend five days on a trolley in the under-pressure University Hospital Limerick emergency department.

“People are deteriorating and dying in hospitals because of overcrowding and understaffing, and we need to do something about it,” said nurse Derek Cromwell.

Forty-three patients were on trolleys in UHL on Thursday: 31 in the emergency department and 12 elsewhere. In all, 417 people were on trolleys across the country.

The Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation said last month was the “worst-ever April for hospital overcrowding”, with 10,229 admitted patients left without beds.

Challenging Mr Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris to five days on a trolley, Mr Cromwell said patients in their 90s have spent up to five days on trolleys in UHL because of overcrowding.

Dire conditions

If the politicians came, he said they would be unable to “walk off the trolley, they can’t get to the toilet, and they can’t get fed, unless a nurse or a healthcare assistant is there to help them”.

Though not directly responding to Mr Cromwell’s challenge, a spokesman for the Taoiseach said he had worked in public medicine, serving in three emergency departments.

Recently, Mr Varadkar said: “I guarantee you that I don’t need to visit any more emergency departments to know what the conditions are like for patients who have to experience overcrowding, for their families . . . and for the staff as well. I know that. Because I’ve been there.”

The reorganisation of 24-hour emergency services at Ennis and Nenagh in 2009 left Limerick as the only full-time emergency department in the Mid-West region, responsible for 400,000 people.

Worsening service

A €19 million, 60-bed modular unit is due to be constructed by June 2020, but management has sought funding for a permanent 96-bed block.

Overcrowding in UHL has worsened over the last five years, complained Mr Cromwell: “The senior management in the HSE and the Government don’t care.

“All they’re worried about is their pensions, their next job, and making themselves look good. We’ve been treated like crap, by the Government and the HSE,” he added.

Responding, UHL said it had planned carefully for last winter, moving patients into nursing homes and helping others to live at home with help.

Patients were transferred, too, to a new recovery unit in Nenagh, while the public were urged to use injury centres in Ennis and Nenagh for broken bones and other minor injuries, rather than coming to the emergency unit.