Limerick hospital investigating after 15 ambulances left queueing outside overcrowded ED

Limerick Hospital Investigating After 15 Ambulances Left Queueing Outside Overcrowded Ed Limerick Hospital Investigating After 15 Ambulances Left Queueing Outside Overcrowded Ed
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Muireann Duffy

At least 15 ambulances queued up outside the Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) on Wednesday afternoon due to high levels of patient overcrowding, reliable sources said.

There were 81 patients waiting for a bed in the hospital on Wednesday, according to figures published by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Sources in the ambulance service said the situation has been building for the past three days, with three reliable sources confirmed that “15” ambulances queued up at the emergency department on Wednesday.

All 24-hour ED services in the midwest were previously reconfigured into UHL, and the hospital has sought an additional 96-bed unit to try to help it cope with patient numbers, despite more than 100 additional beds coming on stream at the hospital last year.

Most of the additional bed capacity in 2021 had been set aide for Covid-19 patients.

'Fairly desperate'


One source said ambulance crews were “marooned” in the hospital on Wednesday, as there was not enough trolleys to hand over their patients to hospital staff.

“The trolley situation is fairly desperate and the waiting area is like Beirut.”

Hospital sources said staff are treating patients who are attending the ED who could be adequately treated at local injury clinics which operate across the region.

A number of sources have said pressure on UHL would be reduced if 24-hour emergency departments in Ennis, Nenagh and St John's in Limerick were re-opened. UHL has a catchment of 400,000 people and is consistently the most overcrowded hospital in the country.

Hospital management have long acknowledged that parts of UHL are not fit for propose and have requested planning permission for units for additional bed capacity.

In 2017, video footage circulated online showing 16 ambulances queueing outside UHL due to patient overcrowding and a lack of trolleys.

Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue, who was placed on a trolley in the UHL's ED after he was involved in a serious road crash, described the overcrowding in the hospital as “chaotic”, calling for EDs in Clare and Tipperary to be reopened and staffed.


Last month the INMO called on the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) to “investigate overcrowding” at UHL.


On January 25th, the union said it recorded 97 patients without a bed at the hospital “the highest number recorded in any Irish hospital since the union began compiling trolley figures”.

A new ED opened in May 2017, however, this has failed to tackle the trolley crisis, said Mary Fogarty, the INMO's assistant director of industrial relations, Mary Fogarty said.

“Despite major investment in capacity at the hospital, it is making no dent in the consistent overcrowding problem in the hospital. Overcrowding adds stress for staff and worsens patient care. It is high-risk in normal times, but even more so during a pandemic.”

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When asked for comment on Wednesday afternoon, a UHL spokesman said they would be issuing a statement, adding: “We are continuing to manage high presentations of very sick patients.”

Last Sunday, the hospital urged people to avoid the ED unless the situation was an emergency and that lengthy delays were expected “for people with less urgent complaints”.

The hospital said it was “working to ensure that care is prioritised for the sickest patients, and as part of our escalation plan, additional ward rounds, accelerated discharges and identification of patients for transfer to our Model 2 hospitals, and we have also opened surge capacity to manage the extremely high levels of activity.”

The National Ambulance Service has also been asked for comment.

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