Tuesday, 28 June 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue. I acknowledge his interest in University Hospital Limerick and the important role it plays in delivering healthcare in the mid-west region. We are all familiar with the difficulties faced by University Hospital Limerick. It was because of these difficulties the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, visited the hospital in February. Following that visit he requested that a HSE expert team review the day-to-day functioning of the emergency department in University Hospital Limerick in a leadership, management, operational and clinical context. The report from the review will seek to identify what is required locally, regionally and nationally to support sustained improvement in the emergency department. The expert team will also continue to support and work closely with University of Limerick Hospital Group and the CHO in the mid-west to support improvements in unplanned emergency care and access to scheduled care.
In addition to the review requested by the Minister, Deputy Donnelly, University Hospital Limerick commissioned Deloitte to review and advised on unscheduled care and patient flow in the hospital.
The review is still in train. When available, the expert team will also consider the recommendations in its own report.
As the Deputy is aware, we recently saw the publication of HIQA's report of the unannounced inspection of the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick against the national standards for safer better healthcare. The Minister has welcomed the report and expressed his concern about the significant risk identified to service users in it.
On Wednesday last, the Minister met with senior officials from his Department and the HSE to discuss immediate responses to the pressures currently faced by emergency departments throughout the country. Those discussions included a specific engagement in respect of the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick, in the context of the specific pressures being experienced by the hospital, and the reports by both HIQA and the HSE expert team recently deployed to Limerick at the Minister's request.
As a result of the intervention requested by the Minister and the recent HIQA report, the chief operations officer of the HSE has written to the CEO of the University of Limerick Hospital Group and the chief officer of mid-west community healthcare to inform them that she has mandated the performance management improvement unit, PMIU, of the HSE to engage urgently with the hospital group and the CHO under the HSE's performance accountability framework. The PMIU will provide intensive support to both hospital and community teams to ensure that the safety issues identified in the recent assessment and the HIQA report, including chronic overcrowding, are addressed as a matter of urgency. A detailed plan will be developed as a matter of urgency in order to ensure that they do not reoccur. This plan will cover issues including admission avoidance, pre-admissions, community interventions and alternative pathways, as well as issues with regard to patient flow through the hospital and emergency department.
I assure the Deputy that the work under way to address the issues that University Hospital Limerick faces, including those highlighted by HIQA's report, will make a significant difference to patient experience at University Hospital Limerick. The Department of Health continues to work closely with the HSE to ensure University Hospital Limerick is fully supported and that the recommendations of the expert review team are actioned in a timely manner. The Deputy raised some very pertinent and disturbing issues that I will bring to the Minister's attention in the morning.