Little has changed in the past 12 months to convince the people of County Clare that they are better off with reduced services at Ennis General Hospital – BREEN.

April 23rd, 2010 - Pat Breen

Twelve months on from the decision to reconfigure Accident and Emergency Services, in the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick, the failure to put the necessary resources in place in tandem with the transfer of services continues to be a cause of real concern to the people of County Clare.

As D-Day approached this time last year for the transfer of services from Ennis to Limerick, I forewarned that the A&E Department at Limerick Regional Hospital would not be able to cope with the influx of additional patients from Ennis and Nenagh. This has been borne out by the experience of Clare patients who are in contact with me every day of the week, many of whom have spent extended periods of times sitting on trolleys in the A&E Dept in Limerick waiting to be seen. Others have been forced to pay additional taxi fares getting to and from Limerick, while many others patients and their families struggle with the lack of basic infrastructure at the hospital, which includes an inadequate number of car park spaces which has caused major inconvenience for people at certain times.

The situation at the Emergency Department at the Mid West Regional Hospital in Limerick can best be described as chaotic at times and the serious overcrowding led to an industrial dispute late last year when the nurses protested about the situation. In spite of the best efforts of the staff at the Hospital, the lack of resources is impinging on patient care.

I have been inundated with complaints from Clare patients about the overcrowding crisis in Limerick. One family were seriously concerned during the year when their mother who has a heart complaint was left sitting on a trolley for over 24 hours before she got a bed. There are many similar stories. When I met an elderly man recently in West Clare, who required medical intervention he said that he was afraid of his life, that he would be left on a trolley to die. People should not be afraid to go to Hospital, instead, it should be a place where they feel safe in the knowledge that they will get the best care they need.”

A recent study undertaken by Consultants in Galway, which was discussed at the AGM of the Irish Medical Organisation in Killarney found that were 20 avoidable deaths over the course, of a year, as a result of the trolley chaos and that on a national level, this would equate to 400 avoidable deaths annually. Treating patients on trolleys is not appropriate in this day and age and there is an onus on the Health Minister Mary Harney and the HSE to act to resolve this crisis.


This week, the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick is locked down as they battle to stop the spread of the vomiting bug which is rampant. These disease control measures have been in place now for over nine weeks and a lot of families are very upset and distraught that they cannot visit their loved ones in the hospital. The reality is that overcrowding in Emergency Departments does lead to increased risk of infection.

Stripping this county of our acute services without having the necessary resources in Limerick Regional Hospital in place was unwise and has done little to allay people fears. The relevant community services are simply not in place and with the constant increase in the rate of issuing of medical cards as a result of the worsening economic crisis, health staff and services have been placed under enormous pressures. The moratorium on recruitment in the Sector has also caused problems.

At Ennis General Hospital its developments have moved at a very slow pace in the intervening twelve months. While we have had numerous announcements regarding the development project we have not seen one block layed. The discontinuation of services like the CAT Scanning only weeks after it came into operation last September also erodes confidence and this service must be restored immediately. Furthermore, now that acute surgical services are going to be centralised in the bigger hospitals, will patients like those in Ennis General Hospital have access to an anaesthetist or what is the situation?

The fears of those living in geographically rural areas that they will not get to the Hospital in time are more acute now that they were 12 months ago. A local man in Kilrush said that “they are more worried than ever especially as the situation in Limerick is totally unsatisfactory.” I still believe that the local ambulance station in Kilrush should have paramedics based in the ambulance station on a 24/7 basis to that in cases of emergencies they would not have to travel all the way from Ennis.

It is important also for the long term viability of Ennis General Hospital that the people of County Clare are aware that the Accident and Emergency Department is operating “business as usual”, between the hours of 8.00 a.m. and 8.00 p.m. It is amazing the number of people who still believe that they have to travel to Limerick for A&E Services.

Overall in the past 12 months, I believe that little has changed to convince the people of County Clare that they are better off with reduced services at Ennis General Hospital.