Public urged to avoid Limerick Emergency Department due to 'unprecedented' patient numbers

Public urged to avoid Limerick Emergency Department due to 'unprecedented' patient numbers

David Raleigh

The UL Hospitals Group, which manages six hospitals in the mid-west region, has urged the public to consider all care options before attending the Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), which is presently managing an “unprecedented level” of patient presentations.

A total of 283 patients attended the Limerick ED in the 24 hours to 8am on Wednesday, “making for the single busiest day ever experienced in the department”, said a spokesman for the hospital group.

In the previous 24 hours, there were 241 attendances which, along with today’s numbers “is a stark contrast with last year’s average daily attendances of 195”.

“With the hospital so busy, people are asked to only attend the ED at UHL in the event of an emergency or serious illness,” said the spokesman.

There were 70 patients on trolleys at UHL today, the highest figure of any hospital in the country, of which 55 were in the ED and 15 were on wards.

Covid-19 pathways

The Limerick ED - the only 24-hour emergency department in Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary - is the region’s main emergency treatment admission pathway for Covid-19 patients.

“By opting for alternative care pathways, including family doctors, out-of-hours GP services, local pharmacies and minor Injury Units at St John’s, Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals, people will be helping to protect the safety of the most seriously ill patients and our emergency care staff,” said the spokesman.

“By first considering the alternatives available for less serious injuries, people will avoid a lengthy wait in the ED, and also relieve pressure on the hospital’s management of the significant demand for inpatient beds from patients with COVID-19 infection, and those who have been de-listed but continue to recover from the disease,” they said

Despite the overcrowding, UHL was “sparing no efforts to ensure that physical distancing is maintained, and wait times are kept to a minimum”.

“We would also like to reassure the public that all our patients continue to receive expert medical care while they wait.”

The spokesman said: “Not all patients are waiting on trolleys. Most are in designated bed spaces (cubicles, bays and beds) in the ED (our Covid-19 emergency admission pathway), and in the non-Covid emergency admission stream of the Acute Medical Assessment Unit and Acute Surgical Assessment Unit; Admitted patients are also waiting in designated surge capacity.”

However he added, “this in no way minimises the upset that people feel when they experience a lengthy wait for a hospital bed, and we apologise to those people, and their families, who have been inconvenienced at this time”.

The spokesman said the group’s Injury Units located at Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals (8am-8pm daily), and St John’s Hospital (8am-7pm, Monday to Friday) “are an excellent option for treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns”.

“If you do have symptoms of Covid-19, it is particularly important that you do not go to the Emergency Department or your GP. Ring them in advance for advice, and avoid contact with other people by self-isolating. In a medical emergency if you have severe symptoms, call 112 or 999.”

The spokesman added: “However, if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk, the ED will assess and treat you as a priority.”

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