The Emergency Department in UHL is one of the busiest in the country, with the number of patients attending growing year on year. UHL was identified as one of the 9 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.
Increasing capacity is a priority for the Government. Since 2017, an additional 25 beds have opened in UHL, including 8 as part of this year's Winter Plan.
The Capacity Programme for 2019 provides for the following increases to capacity, as set out in the National Service Plan 2019:
- 78 additional beds, including a 40-bed modular build in South Tipperary General Hospital, and a 30-bed ward in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda;
- 75 acute beds and 70 community beds as part of the Winter Plan, of which 60 acute beds and 19 community beds have already opened;
- preparation of 202 beds by quarter 4 2019 with a view to bringing this extra capacity into operation in the first quarter of 2020;
- preparation of the proposed opening of a 60-bed modular build in University Hospital Limerick.
Funding has been provided in the National Service Plan 2019 to facilitate the opening of the modular build at South Tipperary General Hospital. The HSE advise that €4.5 million for 2019 has been ring-fenced for this development to be ready for operational use by the end of Q3 2019 and that staff recruitment is underway.
Furthermore, 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.
Finally, 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.
In relation to the particular query, as to whether all additional capacity in the Limerick, Clare and Tipperary region will be considered to alleviate the pressure on UHL, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.