Management at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) have declared a “major internal incident” due to “record high” attendances at its Emergency Department (ED) on Monday.
A spokeswoman for UHL said patients attending the ED with non-emergency care needs would face “lengthy delays”.
“The unprecedented level of ED attendance is driven by a surge in patients with respiratory infections, including Covid-19, flu and RSV,” the spokeswoman said.
UHL has taken a number of emergency actions to try to address the worsening situation at the hospital, including sending out an SOS call for off-duty staff to come back to work.
“Extra staff including nurses and doctors have been asked to present to the hospital for duty,” the spokeswoman said.
“Staff are being redeployed to care for additional patients in the ED, and additional surge beds are being opened in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals.”
Day beds at UHL are also being converted to inpatient beds and there is a renewed focus on "discharging patients to home and the community".
A ward in the Croom Hospital has also been converted for medical patients.
Alternative care pathways
All outpatient appointments at UHL, scheduled for Tuesday have been cancelled and “only urgent elective surgery is going ahead in UHL over the coming days”.
“Anyone presenting to the ED today [Monday] with a less urgent condition is going to face an exceptionally long wait for care. We urge the public to consider all available healthcare alternatives to ED,” the spokeswoman said.
“Less acutely unwell patients are asked to first consider our Injury Units, GPs, out-of-hours GP services and pharmacists before attending ED.”
Injury Units in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s are operating as normal.
“We apologise to every patient who is currently experiencing a long wait for admission at UHL, and for the inconvenience and frustration this causes for patients’ loved ones,” said the spokeswoman.
“In addition, due to the high number of patients with flu and Covid-19 and a number of ongoing outbreaks, all visiting to UHL has been restricted,” she said.
“We regret the distress or inconvenience our visiting ban causes for patients and their loved ones, but it is necessary given the high levels of flu and Covid-19.”
Exceptions to the visiting ban include parents of child patients; people assisting confused patients (e.g. dementia); people visiting patients who are critically unwell or at end of life (on a case-by-case basis).
“All these exemptions are limited to one person per patient only.”
A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group (ULHG) said they have activated HSE operational contingency plans with the National Ambulance Service (NAS) to divert some patients to other acute hospitals to support extreme levels of demand at UHL.
“Today, UL Hospitals Group requested that NAS activate those arrangements for a number of hours to support University Hospital Limerick’s response to an internal major incident,” the spokeswoman said.
“Where these procedures are activated, non-critical patients are diverted to the closest alternative appropriate hospital. The most critically ill patients, for example those with suspected heart attack, stroke and those that were medically unstable continue to be conveyed to UHL during this time.”