A mother in the midwest drove her sick child over three hours to visit an Emergency Department (ED) in order to avoid the overcrowded University Hospital Limerick (UHL), despite it being just a 20-miute drive from their home.
As the Irish Examiner reports, Una Quish decided to bring her son to CHI in Crumlin, Dublin on St Stephen's Day to avoid the midwestern hospital which is consistently the most overcrowded in the country.
"We just went straight to Crumlin. There was the thought of going into the Regional [Limerick] and waiting for another 12 hours with him in pain — he was just so sick — so I said it would be quicker to drive to Dublin," Ms Quish explained.
Her son, Noah (four), was treated in two hours in Crumlin, where the family are familiar with due to Noah having a number of health conditions, compared to a trip to UHL just weeks before which saw them waiting over 12 hours.
Following decisions to close EDs in three of the midwest region's smaller hospitals, UHL is now the only major 24-hour ED for a population of approximately 400,000 people.
In contrast, the south/southwest region has two EDs in Cork and one each in Tralee, Waterford and Clonmel.
Figures from UL Hospitals Group show almost 76,500 people were treated in the UHL ED last year, an increase from just over 71,000 in 2019.
The situation in UHL's ED has been described as "unsafe, unsustainable, and completely avoidable", with Mary Fogarty from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) stating: "Time and time again, University Hospital Limerick is the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland.
"The INMO is once again calling on Hiqa (the Health Information and Quality Authority) to urgently investigate the overcrowding issue in the hospital and make recommendations."