Trolley overcrowding at university hospital a crisis, declares Taoiseach
A dispute over patient overcrowding levels at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) rumbled on yesterday as the Taoiseach described the number of patients on trolleys at the hospital as "a crisis".
On Wednesday, nurses reported 92 patients languishing on trolleys at UHL - the worst overcrowding ever recorded at an Irish hospital.
Prof Paul Burke, chief clinical director of the UL Hospitals Group, disputed the nurses' figures and said the situation was "not a crisis".
"It's something we deal with all the time," he said.
When asked if he shared Prof Burke's view, Mr Varadkar said: "Well, I think overcrowding is a crisis, and certainly for those who experience it; whether it's the patients on trolleys or their relatives, or the staff - it is a crisis."
The Taoiseach said hospitals that continue to experience high levels of overcrowding, such as in Limerick, Cork, and Galway, could learn from areas in the north-east, which he said had seen record low levels.
The country's largest emergency department, costing €25m, was opened at UHL in June 2017, replacing a "not fit for purpose" A&E unit.
However, following decentralisation of 24-hour emergency departments at Ennis and Nenagh and St John's Hospital to UHL, the new unit has struggled to cope with the extra demand.
Mr Varadkar said it received "a lot of investment already", and the new emergency department was "the newest, most modern emergency department in the country".
A spokesman for UHL said it is "meeting the national target of five days' average length of stay for surgical patients and is the best performing group for average length of stay for medical patients."
In addition, it is within target for and has the lowest rate of medical and surgical readmissions of any hospital group in the country.