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A MOTION to support the reopening of Ennis Hospital’s emergency department was approved at Tuesday’s meeting of the Regional Health Forum West amid comments that ongoing conditions at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) were “appalling”.

Centralised trauma care at UHL “has failed in its objective to provide safer care to patients,” Cllr Liam Grant (GP) outlined in his proposal before the Health Forum. The “consistent overcrowding” needs to be addressed, he said while calling on the Forum to pledge its support “to work to reopen Emergency Departments at Ennis, Nenagh and St. Johns and to upgrade these hospitals to model three within the UL Hospital group”.

Protests organised by the Mid-West Hospital Campaign including the most recent one on Saturday have had “overwhelming support,” Cllr Grant stated. “The reality is people are dying because of overcrowding,” he said.

Staff at UHL have become “demoralised” while people “are afraid” to go there, the Lahinch man remarked. “For me it is a lack of dignity and respect how we treat patients there. Elderly patients are alone and scared, they are not being looked after properly, it is a sorry state of affairs. They’ve been abandoned. Given that measures taken by Govt have failed miserably to improve overcrowding levels at UHL, I am asking you to do what public want. Go back to what it was before”.

Group Chief Operations Officer with UL Hospitals Group, Noreen Spillane responded, “We agree that overcrowding is not something we want in the hospital for our patients. The ED in UHL is very busy , there’s no doubt about that. There needs to be a wider discussion about this”.

She suggested a sub-committee meeting to discuss the motion with clinicians, management and councillors, “it needs a broader and wider discussion”.

Any meeting should include representatives from the Mid-West Hospital Campaign, Cllr Grant replied, “we’re all frustrated with what is going on in UHL”.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) who seconded the proposal voiced her annoyance at the state of health services in the region. “I was first elected back in 2009, that was the year we were promised this wonderful thing of reconfiguration and the centre of excellence”.

The Ennis representative admitted she was “jealous” listening to the issues raised by colleagues in Connacht and Donegal. “What’s going on in UHL is appalling. I remember my father was dying in 2009 and he said please don’t bring me to Limerick, it hasn’t improved in fact it’s got worse and there has been investment in it”.

According to the former Mayor of Clare, “nothing” was put in place when the three emergency departments closed in the Mid-West. “I don’t know if another meeting will solve anything. I’ve attended funerals of people who died in corridors, it’s a complete mess, I’m tired of meetings about meetings, nothing is happening”.

Treatment of children at UHL and not Ennis was also questioned by Cllr Howard, “I’m sure every doctor and nurse can stitch a wound or put on steri strips,” she said while recalling a recent instance where a child under the age of five had to go to UHL just to get a stitch. UHL should have closed over the weekend she argued as it was a health and safety hazard with the fire exit blocked. “Count your lucky stars you have Galway and Mayo because we have nothing in Clare, we don’t even have plasters”.

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