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University Hospital Limerick Staffing Crisis Must Be Tackled – Gavan

30 November, 2016 - by Paul Gavan

Speaking in the Seanad this morning, Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan raised the issue of overcrowding and understaffing in the University Hospital Limerick and demanded that the Minister for Health come into the Senate to address the issue.

Senator Gavan said:

“On the 8th of November, it was reported by local media that the UHL had 66 patients waiting on trolleys (37 of which were in emergency services), which was the highest level of overcrowding in any hospital in Ireland that day.

“To put those numbers into perspective, the total bed capacity in Ennis Hospital’s is 50; which meant that UHL had a small hospital worth of additional patients on trolleys that day, with all the implications for infection control and staffing.

“This type of chaos is nothing new to UHL. And, as a consequence of such intolerable conditions, SIPTU nurses and support staff are both balloting for industrial action. They are balloting due to a chronic shortage of staff, and they are balloting because of a new policy of shoving patients on trolleys into the wards.

“I know from speaking to people within the hospital that staff morale is at an all-time low, and it’s easy to see why. They are faced with intolerable workloads and patient care is being compromised under such conditions.

“Patients are also aware of the chaos; they are afraid to enter the hospital. The President of the GP Association, Dr Emmet Kerin, has come out and said that elderly patients with life threatening illnesses are refusing to go to UHL because it is the “worst A and E in Ireland”, those are his words.

“Dr Kerin added that he was surprised that patients have not taken to the streets to protest, like they did on Irish Water.

“The HSE has continued to refuse to hire required additional staff numbers throughout this year to date whilst at the same time spending tens of millions on agency staff to fill the gaps, which of course ends up costing the taxpayer far more.

“Hospital management have, however, finally acknowledged that the Hospital needs an additional 96 SARI compliant beds – something which the HSE outlined in a 2008 report. Here we are 8 years later, finally beginning to address the issue.

“The long promised Emergency Department is built, but plans to open it continue to be put back, the latest official word is May of next year, but I'm already hearing its more likely to be July or August.

“One particular story which illustrates the incompetence at the heart of HSE management is of a man with a van employed by the Ambulance Service to deliver charts across the hospitals in the mid-west. Several weeks ago, his van broke down and neither UHL nor the National Ambulance Service can agree to replace it. So, instead the HSE pays €2000 a week to have charts delivered by taxi. This is the bizarre world of our public health service, and where is the Minister of Health in all of this?

“The history of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour on this issue has been to either starve the public health service of necessary funding or to indulge in wasteful unplanned spending, and here we are in the midst of a huge crisis. There is a rising tide of anger with regard to this issue in Limerick, and they are demanding the government be held to account.

“What I want is the Minister for Health into this chamber as a matter of urgency to address the matter.” 

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