Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Hospital Facilities

4:55 pm

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick City, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

University Hospital Limerick, UHL, caters for the medical needs of the entire mid-west, including my constituency of Limerick City. The region also has St. John's, Ennis and Nenagh hospitals, as well as Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, but UHL is the large cog in the system. On Tuesday, 16 November, 95 people were on trolleys there, which was the highest number since the Irish Medical Organisation, IMO, started recording the figures. Fortunately, the number has reduced to 58 today. It is still a very high figure but it shows a good reduction.

The first point I want to make is that I am concerned about the coming winter period. The construction of a 96-bed acute block at UHL is currently out to tender. It is a project I have worked on for a number of years with the HSE and local UHL management. We want to ensure that once it goes out to tender, it will be funded and construction can get under way. However, I am more concerned about getting over the immediate winter period. Some 50% of ICU beds in UHL are now being taken up by Covid patients. There are currently 49 patients with Covid in the hospital, 13 of whom are in ICU. Those 13 people are taking up 13 of 28 ICU and high-dependency unit beds. This is a significant portion, which is way above the national average of approximately 40%. There are very few available ICU beds on any given day. Over the recent period, either one or no bed was free. We have seen six beds available, on average, over recent months and eight people in ICU.

The hospital's metrics in this regard are way above the national average. The number of patients with Covid is in the top three and it is consistently at the top of the list in terms of numbers on trolleys. The number of Covid patients is a major factor in the number of people on trolleys, which must be factored into the consideration of the issue.

Some €30 million is set aside under the winter plan. I want to ensure hospitals such as UHL can look for additional funding for staff such as junior doctors and I acknowledge the work done by the staff in UHL. They are under pressure all the time, with no respite, caring for the people of Limerick city and county, the entire mid-west and north Tipperary. I ask that the Government would, with the €30 million set aside under the €77 million winter preparation plan, look to assist UHL in getting over this winter period. It is very serious, when one looks at the metrics. We had 49 Covid patients in the hospital yesterday, 13 of whom were in ICU and nearly 50% of the 28 ICU beds are taken up by Covid patients. That is a consistent trend over the past month. The pressure must come off. We are now into the fourth wave of Covid, which will build up more pressure. I ask the Minister of State that the Government, the Department of Health and the HSE ensure UHL gets whatever help is necessary to get over this winter period in terms of dealing with the overcrowding in the emergency department, ED, in UHL.


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