By David Raleigh
“Overwhelmed” staff at the country’s most Covid-19 hit hospital have described patients “on top of one another” in its corridors as it battles a surge of coronavirus cases.
On Thursday, University Hospital Limerick (UHL) had the most confirmed cases of any hospital in the country, with 142 patients.
Three critical care beds remained available at the hospital, while 12 seriously ill Covid-19 patients were being treated in its 28-bed critical care unit. Five general beds were available, according to the latest figures published by the HSE.
UHL has been asked for comment on claims by informed sources that some patients in the Limerick emergency department (ED) were “waiting over 100 hours for a bed”.
“The last two weeks it has gone ballistic with the number of Covid patients coming in. We are down staff and there are areas of the hospital full of Covid patients,” said the source.
“We have doubled down on numbers in corridors, they are on top of one another, it’s impossible to maintain social distancing in the ED, and staff are demoralised and overwhelmed,” they added.
Almost 600 staff across the UL Hospitals Group are currently unable to work due to the virus.
While 2,400 staff across the group’s UHL, Ennis Hospital and University Limerick Maternity Hospital have received the first of two Covid-19 vaccine doses, a similar number of the group’s staff at Nenagh Hospital, St John’s Hospital and Croom Orthopeadic Hospital have not.
“Ultimately, the vaccine will be rolled out across all hospitals in [the] UL Hospitals Group. Currently, we are prioritising staff in intensive care and high dependency units, in our emergency care and Covid admission pathways, and on our Covid-positive wards, so that we can continue managing our emergency services,” said a UL Hospitals spokesman.
“We are currently issuing as much vaccine as possible, based on availability of vaccine and clinical prioritisation. All staff will be offered the vaccine regardless of employment status or grade. This includes temporary staff, agency staff and contractors and students on clinical placements.”
The spokesman added that the vaccine would roll out to all other sites in the hospital group “as soon as possible”.
UHL is the only hospital in the group [in the mid-west region] with critical care capacity
More than 4,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Limerick over the past two weeks, including 165 new cases announced last night.
A UL Hospitals spokesman confirmed there were “a total of 574 staff across [the] UL Hospitals Group unavailable for work due to Covid-19.
“The majority of staff are based at University Hospital Limerick where there were 201 nurses and heathcare attendants unavailable for work,” he said.
“The group has a critical surge plan in place which it can put into effect if required. UHL is the only hospital in the group [in the mid-west region] with critical care capacity.”
Former metropolitan mayor, Cllr Daniel Butler of Fine Gael, said the surge in hospitalisations will bring “huge consequences”.
“We don't want a situation where if you are over-capacity at intensive care, that [doctors] are making some very difficult decisions in terms of who they are giving care to, but we are very close to that at the moment,” he said.
“We are definitely in a serious situation but, hopefully, we can turn it around.”
Elsewhere in Ireland, there are 139 confirmed Covid-19 cases at Cork University Hospital, 127 at Galway University Hospital, 123 at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and 110 at Drogheda hospital.