THERE has been mixed reaction to the news that the HSE has begun recruiting for extra nurses following the announcement that it is to open 20 beds in St John’s Hospital in Limerick. This follows a crisis at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital over recent weeks that saw people being asked not to present at that hospital’s A&E due to a bed shortage.
However, North Tipperary politicians want the facilities and staff spread between Nenagh and Ennis, which were downgraded under reconfiguration.
The HSE said in a statement this Monday that the opening of the beds followed extreme pressure on the Emergency Department of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle, and was made with the support of the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, the Special Delivery Unit of the Department of Health and the HSE.
Ten beds opened in St John’s this Monday and the remainder will open by the end of this month, according to Fearghal Grimes, CEO at St John’s.
Recruitment of the 15 nurses needed began last Friday, April 5. It is hoped to have the staff on board as quickly as possible, according to the HSE, which also pointed out that this was in addition to a total of 21 extra beds coming on stream at the MWRH campus by the end of the year as the new €16m critical care block is fully occupied. Six of these beds have already been provided. Two new acute medicine physicians have been appointed and have taken up duty and a third is to start next week.
“The hospital group’s objective is to have every patient presenting in the Emergency Department examined by a senior doctor in accordance with best international practice. The new team of acute physicians will take charge of a dedicated medical assessment and short stay in patient unit,” said a HSE spokesman.
However, there were calls from North Tipperary politicians for some of the beds and staff to be located at Nenagh.
“While I welcome 20 extra beds, I question the fact that they are still Limerick centred. Why didn’t the HSE spread them and give 10 to Nenagh and 10 to Ennis?” asked Cllr Virginia O’Dowd, Labour.
She questioned why all the facilities had to be Limerick based “while we have empty wards in Nenagh”, saying it seemed “crazy”.
She said that the fact that extra beds were being put it “means the system is not working and Nenagh hospital should never have been downgraded under the disastrous reconfiguration process that was chapmioned by the last Government and supported by some local TDs”.
Meanwhile, the HSE said it had no reports of ambulances circling the entrance to the Regional Hospital waiting to drop off patients but then retruning to Nenagh because there was no space in Limerick. A spokesman said people may be confusing this with inter-hospital transfers with patients being returned to Nenagh Hospital to recuperate following treatment.
The HSE was responding to a query from The Tipperary Star, which was told by sources that two ambulances returned to Nenagh on Monday and that a “number of ambulances were circling the Regional hospital like flights waiting to land” before having to return to Nenagh.
Meanwhile, HSE West Forum representative Cllr John Carroll claimed that people had been “seriously misled” by HSE management and medical staff about the quality of care at the proposed centre of excellence.
He also called for the extra beds to be put in Nenagh and Ennis, claiming the resources were not there to treat the extra people from those areas that now had to avail of services in Limerick. Cllr Carroll, FF, stated that there was no sign of the fit-out of the critical care block in Dooradoyle and that had turned the A&E in Limerick into a “cattle mart”. People were being treated like “third class citizens”.
“There is a problem with overcrowding and elderly care is appalling,” he said. “Unless the staff are put in place, there will always be a bottleneck. The resources are not there. I would not like to be sick and have to go there”. Cllr Carroll said he now had a “deep mistrust of the HSE, of what they do and of what they say”.
He claimed putting in the extra beds at St John’s was “only shifting the problem around. It is like putting a sticking plaster on the issue. There is still a problem in the Regional Hospital.”
He beleived the problems would not be solved until the HSE first admitted there was a problem and until that happened, “they are playing with people’s lives”.
Cllr Seamus Morris, SF, who is also a member of the HSE West Forum said: “The HSE are adapting a very dangerous approach to health care in the Mid-West. Instead of planning safe health care provision they are very dangerously reacting to crisis after crisis, which now sees them opening beds in St John’s. I have for a number of years now consistently refused to be convinced by HSE spin and fabrication (which was swallowed by most politicians who abandoned their constituents).”
He said he was again calling on the HSE to reopen Nenagh as a 24-hour facility to cater for the needs of the people of the Mid-West until the full €300m is spent on making the Regional the centre of excellence that was required under both the Hanly and Teamwork reports.
“Anything other than this is playing with peoples lives,” he said.