Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Questions (370)

Maurice Quinlivan


370. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to tackle the severe overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick in view of the fact that the number of patients on trolleys at the hospital has now surpassed all previous trolley number records; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17667/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Emergency Department in University Hospital Limerick is one of the busiest in the country, with the number of patients attending growing year on year.

Limerick was identified as one of the nine sites requiring additional investment, focus and support as part of this year's Winter Plan. The problem of overcrowding in hospitals requires a full-system, patient-focused response. Recognising this, in the Winter Plan, the HSE sought to maximise the use of existing resources across hospital groups and CHOs and to target additional investment at both hospital and community services and supports. This includes additional home support packages and transitional care beds to support people to leave the hospital and return home.

The range and prioritisation of measures was a matter for UHL and CHO Mid-West. Key measures included:

- extended opening hours in the AMAU;

- opening of a surgical short-stay unit;

- additional access to diagnostics.

The NTPF has established a fund of €1m that will support the HSE Winter plans with a focus on increasing access to diagnostics in both private facilities and in-house.  6,050 vouchers had been issued to Emergency Departments for diagnostics as of 31 March 2019, including 1,050 vouchers issued to UHL.

It is widely agreed that a key part of the solution for Limerick is additional beds. Over the past 18 months, an additional 25 beds have opened in Limerick, including 8 as part of this year's Winter Plan.

A capital allocation of €2 million has been granted in recent weeks and the HSE advises that this will facilitate the completion of enabling works for the 60-bed modular ward in 2019.

In addition, the National Development Plan includes a 96-bed replacement ward block in Limerick and capital funding was provided in 2018 to progress the design phase of this project.

I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly on the actions that are being taken to maximise the use of existing resources in UL Hospital Group and CHO 3 and to reduce overcrowding.