Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has welcomed the involvement of an HSE unit to address “chronic” overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
It comes after a Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspector’s report found that patients on trolleys at UHL had “little to no privacy or dignity” because of the severe overcrowding.
On the day of the unannounced inspection, Hiqa found 60 patients had been waiting “an especially long time”, including one patient who had waited 116 hours, a second waiting more than 85 hours and another waiting 71 hours.
Another patient waited 45 hours for an angiogram.
Mr Donnelly met with senior officials from the Department of Health and the HSE on Wednesday to discuss immediate responses to the pressure on 29 emergency departments across the country.
The Department said in a statement that the discussion included the emergency department at UHL in the wake of recent reports by both Hiqa and a HSE Expert Team, which were recently deployed to Limerick at the Minister’s request.
The officials involved in Wednesday’s discussions included that Expert Team.
The Department of Health said in a statement that HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor has now written to both the CEO of University of Limerick Hospital Group and the chief officer of Mid-West Community Healthcare, informing them that she has mandated the Performance Management Improvement Unit (PMIU) of the HSE to “engage urgently” with the organisations.
“The PMIU will provide intensive support to both hospital and community teams to ensure that the issues identified in the recent assessment, and the HIQA report, are addressed as a matter of urgency,” the Department said.
“While recognising that the programme of investment in hospital and community capacity in the region is ongoing, the PMIU will ensure that all necessary immediate steps are taken to address the safety issues identified, including chronic overcrowding.
“A detailed plan will be urgently developed to ensure that they do not reoccur.
“Such planning will include issues including; admission avoidance, pre admissions, community interventions and alternative pathways as well as issues regarding patient flow through the hospital and ED.
“Minister Donnelly has welcomed this action and has made clear that all necessary immediate resources will be committed to ensure safe and appropriate levels of care are restored in Limerick without delay.”
In a statement, the HSE said a team of its members, and representatives from the UL Hospital group and the mid-west community services, is being established “to devise and implement specific actions” to respond to “the unprecedented level of demand for services at UL Hospital and the wider region in recent months”.
“The establishment of the new group follows a review of unscheduled care at UHL carried out by HSE personnel in May and June.
“The team is similar to teams that have recently supported services in both Cork University Hospital and Kerry General Hospital.
The HSE’s PMIU will lead this process in partnership with UHL team members, it said, and will be onsite for four to six weeks.
“This intervention will be based on ‘the five fundamentals framework’ which is specifically designed to support unscheduled care improvement across all emergency departments.”
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