Friday 20 October 2017

Minister loses his patience with new €24m A&E

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath

Ken Foxe

Health Minister Simon Harris wrote to the management of a hospital asking them how overcrowding seemed to be getting worse even after a €24m A&E had been opened there.

The new emergency facility had opened at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) in May amid promises of three times more space and far better conditions for patients.

However, no sooner had it opened than the chronic overcrowding that had plagued the previous A&E reared its head once again.

Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request revealed how the patience of Health Minister Simon Harris (below) finally ran out in July.

In an email, he wrote: "I see that UHL has worsened this afternoon rather than improved as per their expectation [and] undertaking. 27 on trollies on a summer day … is far too high and a cause of significant concern.

"We have invested heavily in a new Emergency Department and additional staffing for Limerick. I would be grateful if you could convey my concerns and the need for actions [and] improvement."

Chaos

The records also show how the hospital was hit with an outbreak of the highly drug-resistant superbug KPC, which has been an ongoing problem in Limerick.

This latest outbreak temporarily shut the orthopaedic/trauma ward of the hospital, causing further chaos in accident and emergency as it tried to deal with surging patient numbers.

The hospital later responded to the Health Minister saying the opening of the new €24m A&E was never going to solve all its problems.

Chief executive Colette Cowan told the minister that the Emergency Department had seen a spike in use of more than 5pc in its first weeks of operation.

"Literature suggests a 10pc growth in activity when new infrastructure is opened that normally peaks and reduces after four to eight weeks. A similar rise occurred when the Mater Hospital's Emergency Department opened," she wrote.

Irish Independent

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