Thursday, 18 November 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank Deputy O'Donnell for raising this very important issue around University Hospital Limerick. The Deputy has been passionate on this issue for a long time and raises this matter on a consistent basis, both behind the scenes and in the Dáil Chamber.
I acknowledge the scale of the challenge facing our emergency departments as we head into what is expected to be a very difficult winter. I thank our emergency department staff for their ongoing commitment to delivering a high standard of care to ED patients, while acknowledging the distress that overcrowding causes to patients and their families and to front-line staff. There were 6,996 attendances at the emergency department in Limerick in October 2021, up 24% compared to October 2020 and 16.4% compared to October 2019, although, in the year up to 18 November 2021, trolley counts for UHL remain 35% lower than 2019 levels.
The UL Hospitals Group has reported it is continuing to deal with record volumes of patients attending the UHL emergency department, a pattern that has been sustained over a number of months and is being replicated throughout the country. The hospital is continuing to follow its escalation plan, which includes additional rounds, accelerating discharges and identifying patients for transfer to model 2 hospitals. Surge capacity is open in UHL and in Ennis and Nenagh hospitals to meet the current demand and scheduled care remains under review.
There has been and continues to be substantial investment in UHL and the wider hospital group in recent years, to address capacity issues, including a new emergency department that opened in 2017. In the past year, 132 additional beds have been provided. These include the new 60-bed modular ward block at UHL, a 24-bed single room rapid-build ward and the reconfigured 14-bed high-dependency unit, HDU.
The winter plan 2021-22 was published on 15 November. We are investing €77 million in this year's winter plan, in addition to the 2021 funding, which has been retained. The plan recognises that a whole system response is required and outlines how the HSE proposes to manage winter challenges across primary, community and acute care, including measures to allow the public system to access private healthcare capacity. The plan will provide for the appropriate, safe and timely care of patients by ensuring, insofar as possible, effective levels of capacity and resources are in place to meet the expected growth in activity levels.