Irish Medical Organisation

Visit by Oireachtas Health Committee to University Hospital Limerick

Monday 8th April 2024.  The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has described the overcrowding in the Emergency Department in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) as a severe example of the national issue of overcrowding which is happening across Irish acute hospitals. 

Dr Alan Watts and Dr John McManus of UHL attended the special meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health – which took place on-site in UHL today – where the IMO warned Irish hospitals are operating significant above the recommended international capacity levels.

In their submission, the IMO made clear that Ireland has a quoted hospital bed occupancy rate in excess of 97% whereas internationally it was accepted that with an occupancy rate in excess of just 85% means that that hospital will be challenged in making a bed available in a timely manner to patients admitted through the Emergency Department. The actual occupancy rates in Ireland often exceed 105% which compromises care and negatively impacts on mortality.

The IMO believe that the fundamental issue in UHL is that services in Ennis and Nenagh were closed without adequate capacity being made available in UHL.  The capacity was not sufficient to meet the needs of the population then and in the intervening years we have seen a rapid growth in population and significant growth in the elderly population.  This increase has quite simply not been matched by investment in the required capacity or workforce.

The IMO said it was important not to understate the impact of crowding in Emergency Departments.  Crowding of Emergency Departments has been proven to compromise care, delay time to antibiotics for patients suffering with sepsis, delay interventions for patients suffering heart attacks and strokes, delay the delivery of pain relief, delay ambulance turnaround time and increase risk of infection. It is known to be associated with preventable death in patients attending Emergency Departments.

Dr. Peadar Gilligan of the Consultant Committee of the IMO cautioned against blaming doctors or other healthcare staff for the resulting problems in Emergency Departments and said Government should focus on delivering the additional 5,000 beds required. He said: “To blame doctors or other healthcare staff for problems that have been directly caused by decades of under investment, by successive governments, is leading to even lower morale.  There are simply not enough of us to deliver the ever increasing needs of the population, yet we have an ongoing recruitment freeze imposed by the HSE due to lack of funding from Government.”

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