record numbers | 

Ambulances had to wait 24 hours outside Limerick hospital amid overcrowding, it’s claimed

It comes as a staggering 931 people across the country are waiting on trolleys today, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

Edel HughesSunday World

A campaigner has revealed up to 13 ambulances were facing a 24-hour wait outside University Hospital Limerick (UHL) last night with only the most urgent cases being admitted.

And they warned there will be “more deaths” at the hospital following the recent death of Clare teenager Aoife Johnston (16) who died from meningitis after being admitted to A&E at UHL.

Last night, the embattled hospital declared a “major internal incident” due to “record attendance” at its A&E. Management issued an SOS call to off duty staff to come back to work to deal with the crisis and patients were warned they face “lengthy delays.”

It comes as a staggering 931 people across the country are waiting on trolleys today, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

This is the highest number of patients that have been without a bed since the trade union began counting trolleys in 2006.

UHL is worst hit with 97 patients are waiting for a bed as the HSE are urging the public to “explore all other options” before attending an A&E unit. Eight patients are waiting in Ennis Hospital in Clare and a further eight in Nenagh Hospital in Co Tipperary.

A UHL spokesperson said: “Staff are being redeployed to care for additional patients in the ED, and additional surge beds are being opened in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals.”

Nenagh local Tanya McMahon of the Midwest Hospital Campaign revealed the pressure on UHL increased since Nenagh Hospital was downgraded and lost its A&E.

Tanya told sundayworld.com: “Nenagh Hospital was downgraded in 2009, so for the last 14 years, people in the midwest area have been languishing on trolleys in overcrowded and unsafe conditions in UHL's emergency department.”

She joined a local campaign group which later combined with groups from Limerick and Ennis to continue their fight.

They are calling for Accident and Emergency units in Nenagh, Ennis and St John’s Hospital in Limerick to be reopened to deal with the chaos.

The group last night shared a message from a paramedic based in Limerick which shows an internal message advising staff at 4.32pm that UHL is closed to ambulances except for the most urgent cases, including some types of heart attacks, strokes and resuscitations.

An internal message from UHL advising paramedics only certain urgent cases could be admitted

Tanya also revealed an employee based at UHL sent the group a video of “12 to 13” ambulances waiting outside the hospital last night. They claim hospital management told them that there would be a 24-hour wait to get inside the building.

However, the employee later asked the group to remove the video as hospital management were “going crazy” and they feared they could lose their job.

Tanya said the Midwest Hospital Campaign has engaged with politicians, inviting them to protests and a recent vigil but the response has been lacklustre.

She told sundayworld.com: “We decided to do a petition, we were going to hurling matches, outside the church, in town, getting signatures and we got over 15,000 signatures. That was put to the Petition Board and that would have been brought up in the Dail when they got the petition.

“We’ve emailed all the politicians, we’re getting nothing back.”

Tanya added: “Politicians came, they left, they still haven't said a word. Michael Lowry hasn’t said a word.

"Martin Browne of Sinn Fein raised it in the Dail, he’s from Tipperary, but that was it.”

“We thought after that poor girl died a couple of weeks ago (Aoife Johnston), we thought after that, they’re going to have to do something.

“More deaths are going to happen, we’re disgusted with our TDs, absolutely disgusted that they’re not saying a thing about it.”

"It's very disheartening, it’s very maddening, you get very angry about it and the worst thing is there will be more deaths.

In response a spokesperson for the HSE told sundayworld.com: “As part of the HSE’s operational contingency planning arrangements, Hospital Groups and the National Ambulance Service (NAS) have procedures in place to if necessary, temporarily divert some patients to other acute hospitals to support an acute hospital that may be experiencing extreme levels of demand.

“On Monday, January 2nd, UL Hospitals Group requested that NAS activate those arrangements for a number of hours to support University Hospital Limerick’s response to an internal major incident.

“Where these procedures are activated, non-critical patients are diverted to the closest alternative appropriate hospital. The most critically ill patients, for example those with suspected heart attack, stroke and those that were medically unstable continued to be conveyed to UHL during this time.

“While some patients will regrettably experience long wait times in the Emergency Department at UHL, urgent patients will always be prioritised for treatment and care.

“Patients who are seriously ill or injured or worried that their life is in danger must continue to dial 999 or attend the ED where they will be treated as a priority. Less acutely unwell patients are asked to first consider our Injury Units, GPs, out-of-hours GP services and pharmacists before attending ED.

“Ambulances outside ED and Ambulance turnaround times (general):

“Increased activity in the ambulance bay outside the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick is to be expected at a time when activity is at record levels and continues to increase.

“At any one time, the ambulance bay may be hosting both public ambulances (both inbound emergency and intermediate care vehicles transferring patients to Model 2 sites or residential care settings) and private vehicles.

“Every effort is made to ensure that ambulances are turned around in as timely a manner as possible.

“Along with the long-standing and well documented challenges arising from a shortage of acute hospital beds in this region, UL Hospitals Group is also continuing to manage an extraordinarily high level of demand for emergency care. Attendances at our ED reached a record 79,891 in 2022.

“Please note that as the only model 4 hospital in the MidWest, UHL is the receiving hospital for life-threatening emergencies such as cardiac arrest, major trauma etc. The severity of illness/injury in patients arriving at our ED reflects this and UHL receives more emergency ambulances than any other hospital in the country.

“For example, UHL received 1,921 emergency ambulances in July 2022 and 1,944 in August 2022, more than 400 more than the next busiest hospital in the country on both months. In both months, the ambulance turnaround time was below the national average”.

Meanwhile, Professor Declan Lyons, a consultant and geriatrician at UHL, echoed the need for local assessment while speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland on Radio 1 today.

Prof Lyons claimed “only five pc of patients going into UHL need critical care facilities” and the others could be dealt with locally if A&E facilities were available.


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