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HSE figures highlight “chronic underinvestment” in Mid West

A Clare TD says that new figures from the HSE highlight  “chronic underinvestment” in the Mid West of the country, as just 7 full-time posts were created in the most overcrowded hospital in the country last year.

Independent TD, Michael McNamara, says that only 7 WTE (Fulltime /Whole-time Equivalent) healthcare professional positions in Acute Services were created at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) during 2022 – despite UHL being the most overcrowded hospital in the country last year.

Figures released by the HSE in response to a Parliamentary Question by Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara show that 61 or 2.3% of the 2,645 WTE acute services positions created last year in Irish hospitals were located in hospitals within the UL Hospital Group. This compared with the creation of 579 WTE positions in Saolta University Hospital Care (21.9% of the national figure), 547 in the South/South West Hospital Group (20.7%), 498 in the RCSI Hospitals Group (18.8%), 459 in the Ireland East Hospital Group (17.4%), 418 in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (15.8%) and 77 in Children’s Health Ireland (2.9%).

The figures also show that University Maternity Hospital Limerick was one of only five hospitals across the country to experience a reduction in staff numbers in Acute Services with 265 WTE health professionals employed at the facility in December 2022 compared to 274 in December 2021. The other hospitals experiencing a reduction in overall staff numbers were Coombe Women & Infants University (-20), St. Michael’s Dublin (-10), CHI at Temple Street (-6) and CHI at Connolly (-1).

The report is broken down by hospital and staff categories, namely Medical & Dental, Nursing & Midwifery and Health & Social Care professionals, including physiologists. The HSE states that an additional 666 and 38 W.T.E positions were created in Community Services and Health & Wellbeing services respectively during 2022.

Deputy McNamara, who will be raising the matter with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leader’s Questions tomorrow (Tuesday), said the figures are contrary to repeated claims by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly about investments in resources within the UL Hospital Group.

“UHL has been the most overcrowded hospital in the country for the past seven years, with a record 18,028 patients waiting on trolleys and on wards in 2022,” stated Deputy McNamara.

He continued, “This time last year, we discovered that none of the six hospitals in the UL Hospitals Group would receive any of the 411 acute and 36 ICU beds scheduled to open across Ireland in 2022. Now we discover that the increase in the healthcare workforce in Acute Services in the Mid-West falls far behind the increases seen in other regions across the country. The picture painted by these figures suggests a chronic underinvestment in hospitals across this region and therefore, there should be no surprise as to why waiting lists and trolley numbers here remain consistently higher than other parts of the country.”

“Minister Donnelly told me in the Dáil last week that 2023 will be the fourth year of record recruitment into the HSE since the foundation of the HSE, which will ring hollow for the people of Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary who will look at these figures and see that the UL Hospital Group has benefited little,” added Deputy McNamara. “The Minister also told me in the Dáil last week that 1,000 extra staff now work in UHL compared with three years ago. I have submitted a Parliamentary Question to Minister Donnelly in respect of a breakdown of these positions and I await his response.”

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