I wish to acknowledge the distress overcrowded Emergency Departments cause to patients, their families and frontline staff working in very challenging working conditions in hospitals throughout the country.
The hospital system is currently operating at close to full capacity. 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 9 sites requiring additional investment, focus and support as part of this year's Winter Plan. Managing the increasing demand for health services 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.
Since 2017, an additional 25 beds have opened in Limerick, including 8 as part of this year's Winter Plan.
A capital budget of €19.5 million has been approved for the provision of a modular 60-bed inpatient ward block at UHL, with funding of €10 million allocated in 2019. Enabling works commenced in March 2019, and the HSE advise that the main works are expected to start at the end of May 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.
The HSE have advised that the review of the Winter Plan currently underway will include an independent expert review of clinical, analytical and management capability in University Hospital Limerick and CHO Mid-West and the other 8 individual focus sites and their relevant CHOs.
UL Hospitals Group has undergone significant reorganisation in recent years to deliver healthcare reform. There is an increased focus on the smaller hospitals managing routine or planned care locally and providing step down, in-patient care to alleviate the pressure on UHL.
With regard to the operational actions at hospital and Group level to maximise the use of bed capacity across the Group, I have asked the HSE to reply directly to you on this matter.