11,000 attend protest against overcrowding at UHL

A reversal of the controversial decision in 2009 to downgrade 24-hour services at St. John’s, Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals was the core message sent out from Saturday’s Limerick protest – attended by more than 11,000 people – over continued overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
This alone led to the loss of 50 acute beds, the Irish Nurse and Midwives Organisation (INMO) stated. “If we had not lost those acute beds, we believe we would not have seen the gross overcrowding we have now, or certainly there would have been a reduction in the number of presentations at the ED (Emergency Department) in Limerick,” said INMO’s Mary Fogarty.
She added: “Taking these beds out of the system was certainly detrimental to patients in the region and has contributed to the gross overcrowding we now see at UHL, which has escalated from that period on.”
Lead protestor Mike Daly stated: “If the HSE (Health Service Executive) don’t review their decision, this protest is not the end. It is only the beginning.”
It was stated in 2009 that UHL would need 670 beds to cope with the increased patient numbers in the region. It currently has 530 beds and needs another 200 to cope with the current demand. Building is under way on a new 96-bed block, but only 48 will be new, and the completion date is 2024.
It’s well documented that the ED at UHL is the most overcrowded in Ireland.
For the past seven years, it has been the most overcrowded hospital in the country, with a record 18,000-plus patients waiting on trolleys and on wards in 2022, according to statistics from INMO. This compares with around 2,400 in 2009, the year of the downgrade of other hospitals in the region.
On one day in April last, UHL broke another record with 126 patients (for whom a minute’s silence was held ahead of the protest) waiting on trolleys, the highest daily figure since 2006. UHL caters for a population of almost 400,000 people, where 15% are over the age of 65 and big consumers of healthcare.
Across 2022, it saw almost 80,000 ED attendances.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he and his officials are engaging regularly with the HSE (Health Service Executive) about the emergency department situation to improve access for patients and support healthcare workers.