Limerick hospital non-urgent surgeries to resume after being postponed for two days

University of Limerick hospital group said it is coping with an ‘exceptionally high number’ of unwell patients

Elective surgery procedures will resume at hospitals in the Limerick area from Thursday morning, having been suspended for two days.

The University of Limerick hospital group, consisting of University Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, St John’s Hospital Limerick and Croom orthopaedic clinic, postponed all non-emergency operations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The group blamed an “exceptionally high number of unwell medical patients” presenting at emergency departments for the surge. Since March 1st, 1,716 patients have presented at the emergency department, a daily average of 245 patients.

Only operations for urgent and time-critical patients, including cancer patients, are going ahead.


According to the HSE’s TrolleyGar figures, there were 62 admitted patients waiting for a bed at UHL this morning – 21 in its emergency department and 41 on wards.

In a statement the University of Limerick Hospitals Group said postponement of scheduled elective activity was a “last resort that no hospital manager wishes to make, and UL Hospitals Group regrets the impact on any patients who have been impacted by deferrals this week.

“We will work to ensure these appointments are rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.”

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald accused the Government of showing a lack of political leadership in relationship to hospital services in the midwest.

She said the continuing crisis in the University Hospital Limerick has left 100 patients and trolleys along with the deferral of elective procedures for two days in a row. “Our demand to the Government is quite simple – that they accept the reality of what is going on and that they respond to the very reasonable demands of people for healthcare, for safety and for peace of mind.”

Meanwhile, a Limerick pharmacist has told of how the first knowledge general practitioners and pharmacies had of a request from the HSE for assistance in easing pressure on University Hospital Limerick was through the media.

I think the issue is that we have a rising population and an ageing population, and that inevitably is going to place continuing demand for what used to be a winter surge in demand

—  Dr Michael Kelleher - Lahinch GP

There was no communication directly from the HSE Niall O’Sullivan told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland. “The first we heard of it was through the media on RTÉ news. And unfortunately, that’s quite a common occurrence. So the hospital group are asking for both GPs and pharmacies to step up and assist them with this issue. But there was no communication from the HSE to say, ‘listen, can we have your assistance or help here?’”

Lahinch GP Dr Michael Kelleher added that capacity remained a key issue and there was a need for more beds, more step-down options and more community services to support step-down services. General practice provided preventive care which could help reduce the need for hospital visits, but there were limits to the level of support that general practice could offer, he warned.

“I think the issue is that we have a rising population and an ageing population, and that inevitably is going to place continuing demand for what used to be a winter surge in demand. And in the hospital sector that is now an all year round demand. And that’s not going to change because our population is rising and ageing. We’ll have four times as many people over 85, in under 25 years. And we simply have to build up the capacity to cope with that. In the short term, we’re going to have lots of issues like are occurring in Limerick currently.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out the reopening of closed emergency departments in midwest regional hospitals to combat the chronic trolley crisis at University Hospital Limerick.

Mr Varadkar said in the Dáil it was the expert advice that centralised services were better “even though I know that must sound absurd to people who are experiencing overcrowding”.

He told Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea that expert emergency department consultants had advised that reopening closed emergency departments “isn’t the right way to go” when resources were already spread thinly.

The Limerick TD appealed for the Government to consider reopening at least one of three closed emergency departments in the region including Ennis and Nenagh hospitals.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter