Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Health

Hospital Overcrowding

Photo of Joe CareyJoe Carey (Clare, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

38. To ask the Minister for Health if he will report on his recent visit to University Hospital Limerick; his action plan to address the ongoing chronic trolley crisis following his visit setting out a timeframe for these actions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16846/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I visited Limerick University Hospital on the evening of 16thFebruary and again on 17thFebruary when I also visited Croom Orthopaedic Hospital. I met patients, staff and the management team. My discussion with the Chief Executive Officer and the Executive Management Team of the hospital included unscheduled care activity, recruitment and staffing and waiting lists. We also discussed current pressures and possible solutions including pathways through ED, discharge options, the impact of recent investment including beds and the new ED, and additional capacity requirements.

I also met with staff of the hospital and listened to their experiences of dealing with Covid over the past two years and their ideas for improving services to patients. This included a group of Clinical Nurse Managers and a group of Non Consultant Hospital Doctors.

I also met with staff from the Community Health Organisation including the Head of Service, Primary Care, the Head of Disability Services and the Head of Older Persons Services.

I had the opportunity to see the new infrastructure provided recently including the Haematology/Oncology Ward, the new Emergency Department and the new Bed Block. I also saw the new theatre block in Croom.

The current congestion in Emergency Departments is due to constrained bed capacity caused by combination of the high number of patients in hospital with COVID-19 (1624 nationally on Monday 28th March, of which 105 were in UHL), the increased number of delayed transfers of care cases which is partly due to COVID outbreaks in nursing homes and the very high number of people attending EDs in recent weeks.

While attendance and admission numbers are now exceeding pre-pandemic levels, the continued requirement to provide separate Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 pathways presents an additional challenge to patient flow in all hospitals and Emergency Departments.

The HSE is actively working with hospitals and hospital groups to mitigate the situation. The HSE is continuing to utilise capacity in private hospitals and is reviewing elective care to reduce pressure on bed capacity. Patients are requested to use alternatives such as their local pharmacist, GP or minor injury unit as appropriate.

Investment of €1.1bn was provided in budget 2021 to expand capacity, increases services and support reform and this level of investment is being maintained in budget 2022. A further €77 million has been invested in the 2021/22 Winter Plan. To date over 800 additional beds have been provided in acute hospitals since the start of 2020.

It is accepted that a key part of the solution for Limerick is additional beds. The new 60-bed modular ward block at University Hospital Limerick is a significant step in addressing this, and provides modern, single-room inpatient accommodation with improved infection prevention and control capabilities as well as patient flow throughout the hospital.

This follows the completion of two separate rapid-build projects delivered under the Government National Action Plan in Response to Covid-19, which provided an additional 38 inpatient beds on site at UHL.

Furthermore, Project Ireland 2040 includes provision for a 96-bed replacement ward block at UHL. The project has now been tendered in line with public procurement requirements, with tenders returned on 3rd February. The tender evaluation process is currently underway. It is hoped to progress this process in the coming weeks with a view to then seeking HSE Board approval for the award of the works contract.

The Department and the HSE will continue to work with local hospital management to further improve patient experience in UHL.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.