Decision to close Limerick hospital ward criticised

The decision to close a hospital ward in Limerick has been criticised by a leading nursing trade union and TDs.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) slammed the plans by University Hospital Limerick’s management to close the ward, resulting in the loss of 17 funded medical beds.

The hospital’s overcrowding situation reached the second highest it has ever been today, with 76 patients waiting for beds, according to INMO figures.

The beds facing closure are in Ward 1A, used primarily for the treatment of  patients who require short periods of admission.

Limerick is the most overcrowded hospital in the country

The INMO say it learned of the plans in recent weeks, and has written to the chief executive, on March 6, to object to the loss of hospital capacity.

The union released a statement saying that the hospital’s issues with overcrowding will be exasperated by the closure.

“University Hospital Limerick is already the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland, with the INMO’s daily trolley watch showing that 11,400 patients were on trolleys, without beds, in the hospital in 2018,” a statement said.

“On Tuesday, a total of 76 people were waiting for hospital beds in UHL, with 54 waiting in the emergency department, and 22 elsewhere in the hospital.”

INMO industrial relations officer for Limerick, Mary Fogarty, said the numbers were unacceptable.

“Limerick is the most overcrowded hospital in the country,” she said.

Overcrowding is endemic and we already see unacceptable numbers of patients forced to wait without a proper bed.

“It simply does not make sense to close further beds when faced with such a problem.

“We need to be going in the opposite direction.

“Closing beds will only worsen Limerick’s overcrowding crisis, leading to compromised treatment and patients being forced to wait on public corridors.

“Closing these 17 funded beds is a disservice to the patients and staff at the hospital.

“Sadly, to date the hospital management has refused to review this illogical decision.”

A nurse with a stethoscope (Lynne Cameron/PA)

Sinn Fein TD for Limerick Maurice Quinlivan also condemned the plans.

“The decision to close this in-patient ward beggars belief,” he said.

“University Hospital Limerick is already the most overcrowded in the state with more than 70 people lying on hospital trolleys today because there aren’t enough beds.

“The loss of these 17 inpatient beds can only add further pressure to the overcrowding in the hospital.

“This closure has been decided by the management of the hospital and I would urge them to immediately review that decision.

“Our health service is in crisis and Minister (Simon) Harris has failed to deal with the issues that are causing this emergency.

“The government should be working to address the systemic problems in the health service, rather than making the situation worse.”

A spokesman for the hospital said: “Ward 1A is to close to facilitate the completion of works on the new fracture unit.

“This is in accordance with the overall plan to redesignate the space occupied by the old emergency department at UHL.

“Staff were fully involved in this process, with various teams presenting business cases on optimal use of the old ED.

“The outcome of this process was to open a new fracture clinic in a portion of the old ED footprint.

“This will have a significant benefit for patients attending our busy fracture clinic in terms of reduced wait times and improved patient experience.”

- Press Association

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