Eighty-one patients were left on trolleys and waiting for a bed at University Hospital Limerick.
The highest ever number of patients waiting on trolleys has been recorded in an Irish hospital, according to a leading union.
A total of 81 patients were left on trolleys waiting for a bed at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) on Wednesday, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s (INMO) Trolley Watch.
Fifty-two were waiting in the emergency department, with 29 in wards elsewhere in the hospital.
81 patients were waiting for hospital beds in UHL this morning – the highest recorded daily figure for any hospital. Meanwhile, 17 much-needed beds have been closed. Sign the petition to get these beds re-opened for the safety of patients and staff. https://t.co/UOuyNekXdH pic.twitter.com/xvPlvYnNpQ
— Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (@INMO_IRL) April 3, 2019
UHL is at the centre of another row with the union after a 17-bed ward closed last week, which the INMO says is contributing to the problem.
Ward 1A was used primarily for patients who require short periods of admission. The hospital said the closure would facilitate the completion of works on a new fracture unit.
Nationally, 594 admitted patients were waiting for beds – 432 in emergency departments and 162 in other wards.
Limerick topped the worst-hit hospitals by a large margin, with 50 patients on trolleys at Cork University Hospital and 43 at University Hospital Galway.
The INMO’s industrial relations officer in Limerick, Mary Fogarty, who was attending meetings at UHL on Wednesday, said: “Staff and patients are under intolerable pressure in Limerick today. This is the worst-ever figure we’ve recorded in an Irish hospital.
“This comes less than a week after a 17-bed ward in UHL was shut. The beds that have been closed in UHL need to be reopened immediately.
“We are calling on the minister to intervene and deal with the chronic overcrowding in the hospital as an urgent matter of patient and staff safety.”
Sinn Fein TD for Limerick Maurice Quinlivan had previously condemned the plans to close the ward, which he predicted would cause a further trolley crisis.
“The decision to close this inpatient ward beggars belief,” he said.
“University Hospital Limerick is already the most overcrowded in the state, with people lying on hospital trolleys because there aren’t enough beds.
“Our health service is in crisis and minister (Simon) Harris has failed to deal with the issues that are causing this emergency.
“The Government should be working to address the systemic problems in the health service, rather than making the situation worse.”
A spokesman for UL Hospitals Group said that they “sincerely regret” that any patient has to face long waits during busy periods and “any distress or inconvenience this causes to patients and their loved ones”.
“There has been a surge in presentations to emergency departments nationally in recent days.
“The ED in UHL has also been exceptionally busy with high numbers of patients presenting, including many frail elderly patients with complex medical conditions.
“While patients still face delays in the new ED, it provides for a much-improved patient experience compared to the old department and has resulted in improved patient outcomes, allowing for earlier diagnostics and treatment of the sickest patients, better isolation facilities, improved pathways for major trauma/critical care, and quicker door-to-needle times for stroke patients.
“UL Hospitals Group notes the commentary in recent days in respect of the closure of the 17-bedded Medical Short Stay Ward 1A and again points out that 22 beds have opened elsewhere in the hospital in recent weeks.”
The INMO has launched a petition calling for the closed ward to be reopened and for bed capacity and staffing to be increased.
They say the hospital’s trolley crisis is bad for patients, nurses and all hospital staff.
The petition reached almost 1,000 signatures within a day.