Sinn Féin TD for Limerick, Maurice Quinlivan, has said that 2023 was the worst year on record for overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick and is a damning indictment of Government failure.
Deputy Quinlivan made his comments following the release of INMO figures that showed a further 36 people were treated on trolleys today, bringing the 2023 total to an incredible 21,445.
He said the Government has failed to deliver enough hospital capacity and that their mismanagement of the health budget and decision to underfund the health service has left hospitals across the state without the beds they need and constrained by a recruitment embargo.
Teachta Quinlivan said:
“After last year’s disastrous winter, which saw avoidable deaths and a massive street protest in Limerick, we had hoped that the Government would get to grips with the issue, but their inaction continues.
“When is the Government going to act decisively so that the people of Limerick and the Midwest can get the emergency department they deserve?
“The INMO figure of 21,445 patients who were treated on trolleys at UHL in 2023 is a record and represents a clear failure by the Government and the Minister for Health. For three consecutive years, the numbers treated in this manner have far exceeded the previous year. The government has no plan to address this crisis.
“Workers and patients face severely overcrowded hospitals, and have no choice but to cancel planned appointments and surgeries to cope with demand. This is simply shifting the problem from one part of the health service to another.
“This situation was avoidable. The Minister announced 1,200 new beds three years ago, and 200 of them have yet to be delivered. He has recently announced 1,500 new beds on several occasions but secured no funding for them in the budget just gone.
“The Government knows that these beds are needed and needed urgently. However, they decided to sacrifice health in Budget 2024 and therefore threw in the towel on healthcare.
“All the while, the CEO of the HSE has been raising concerns that there is no funding certainty for access to private hospital capacity. While this is an undesirable policy, it is necessary in the absence of enough beds in public hospitals. On top of this, the HSE is restricted by a recruitment embargo because of the Government’s deliberate decision to underfund the health service.
“I hoped that last winter, when a disgraceful number of patients ended up on trolleys on a single day in early January, would be a watershed moment, and that the Government would act quickly to use the year just gone to improve capacity. They have failed to do so and it is the people of Limerick and the Midwest whose care is impacted.
“Fine Gael came into Government in 2011 with a promise to end ‘the scandal of patients on trolleys’. Their handling of the health system in Government for the last 13 years has been a bitter failure felt most keenly by the people who need to access the ED in UHL.
“This Government has starved the health service of new funding for next year with the new beds still yet to be delivered at UHL. Those treated on trolleys this year were people deemed as needing a bed and yet no bed was available to them. The people of the Midwest deserve better than that. Our health professionals need better than that too.
“A Sinn Féin government would fund the health service properly to ensure patients in Limerick get the high-quality, timely health care they need when they need it.”