Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Covid-19: New Measures: Statements
Kieran O'Donnell (Limerick City, Fine Gael)
In the time I have, I want to deal with a couple of items relating to Limerick. They come under the headings of testing and University Hospital Limerick, UHL. On the testing side, we have a testing centre in Ballysimon on the Ballysimon Road and RocDoc in Shannon is also being used. This morning you could not an appointment in Ballysimon. Later today you could not get an appointment either in Ballysimon or in RocDoc. We have an issue. We need a further test centre in Limerick. I ask that request be looked at seriously and that it be put in place. If we are encouraging people to get tests there must be available capacity. I understand the pressures. The Minister will appreciate I follow metrics. This morning you could not an appointment in Ballysimon Road and this afternoon you cannot get one there or in RocDoc in Shannon. That needs to be looked at. We need another test centre in Limerick.
Moving to UHL, the number on trolleys was down to 43 which is a welcome change. A little over a week ago we were at 95. I wish to point to a number of issues. My first request is one I have made already. The Taoiseach has given an assurance, and I put it to put it to Paul Reid of the HSE today as well. I ask that UHL be entitled to apply under the winter preparedness plan for whatever resources are required. For me, the metrics are we have 43 people on trolleys as of today but we have 14 people in ICU. The last time we had 43 people on trolleys was back on 14 November, a little over nine days ago, and the number of patients in the ICU was nine. Thus, we have 43 people on trolleys but we have 47 patients with Covid, so in UHL we now have more patients with Covid than are on trolleys. It is a welcome change with the trolleys but it shows the significance of Covid. Of the 47 Covid patients, 14 of them are now in the ICU. The last time we had 43 people on trolleys, we had only nine people in the ICU. We therefore have a serious problem in UHL with bed capacity. Yes, the 98 beds were very welcome but we got 60 beds that were brought in to alleviate pressures. That is something for which I campaigned for a long time. However, that 60-bed ward is now being used as a Covid isolation ward, and correctly so. Nonetheless, it is not being used for the purpose of alleviating pressure on the hospital itself.
It is not just about bed capacity. It is about available medical personnel, including doctors, especially junior doctors, nurses and medics right across the board. This is something I am looking at. On 16 November, which was last week, we had 95 people on trolleys. Within two days, that was down to 58. I must ask the hard questions. It is a combination of major capacity issues that are historic, the 60 beds being used as a Covid isolation ward and the staff being under immense pressure. They are fatigued, tired and worn out. They have people coming to them who are seriously ill. My ask is straightforward, namely, that UHL be provided with whatever it needs to get through this winter period. It will probably be multifaceted. It will be step-down beds out of the hospital and it will be extra staff. Whatever is required must be provided. We have a 96-bed acute block going out for tender and we will be pushing very hard for that to be funded so we can get it up and running quickly. However, in the interim, we must get through Covid and through the winter period.
My first ask is that UHL can avail of the winter preparedness plan and that it be flexible. It would not just be about looking at going into the community. It would be extra junior doctors, as I have mentioned, coming through so they can deal with the volume of patients presenting. Covid is endemic in our hospitals at the moment. If you have 43 people on trolleys and 47 people with Covid in the hospital, it gives you a dynamic. Of the latter, 14 are in the ICU. Second, we need a second testing centre in Limerick. People are availing of it. The Ballysimon centre and RocDoc in Shannon are now booked up. I ask that the provision of a second centre in the city be looked at seriously.