Credit: Mike Daly / UHL protest

‘Numbers beyond expectations’: 11,000 attend UHL protest

An estimated 11,000 people have attended protest in Limerick against long waiting times and overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL). 

The protest, which took place today in Limerick City, called for plans to be put in place immediately to reopen all three accident and emergency departments in Ennis, Nenagh and St. John’s to relieve pressure at UHL. The huge public demonstration comes as Emergency Departments across the country and at UHL witnessed record trolley figures this month.

Organiser of the protest, Mike Daly, said he was left “speechless” by the support and turnout, as he told attendees they should be “proud” of themselves for supporting the campaign in person.

“Let’s hope it makes a difference,” he said in a statement released shortly after the protest finished. “We’ll sit back now and wait on a response if any”. 

Crowds heard how Mr Daly, who has been involved for the last 13 years in a case regarding a family member’s treatment at UHL, had put “blood, sweat and tears” into organising the large-scale public demonstration over the last few years.

“Since December 23rd, he has put his soul into this,” protesters heard, “unlike the politicians” across the country who have issued statements but have failed to take direct action. Crowds heard how it was the “biggest health protest” ever seen in Limerick.

Mr Daly, who organised the protest along with the Mid West Hospital Campaign, thanked participants for turning out in force.

“Thank you all for coming here today. It’s been a great turnout, and I hope it results in the HSE reversing their decision to close the three A&Es and reopen them”.

“But if they don’t,” he continued, “Then this is not the end. This is only the beginning of a campaign of people power that will force change in the healthcare in the MidWest,” he said to loud applause.

“For fourteen years, we have watched as they have closed our A&Es, robbed us of hospital beds and watched our people die on trolleys. Well, no more. The time has come for change because we deserve better. Our health system deserves better. Our health service deserves enough workers so that it can operate properly”.

Highlighting the issues which have brought UHL to its knees in recent weeks, resulting in a ‘major incident’ being declared at the hospital just this month, he continued:

“Our elderly deserve better than to lie on a cold, hard trolley. Our young people don’t deserve to die from neglect. So today we march for our families; we march for our children; we march for our mothers and fathers”.

Speaking directly about his own personal experience, he told crowds:

“When my own father died, it was from one of the most serious cases of neglect you’ll ever hear about. Neglect over a number of years that resulted in his death. There was an inquest in 2012 where medics said his death was from natural causes, but that was lies.

“Now, we have a second inquest starting March 6th 2023 and I would urge you all to follow the inquest proceedings to hear a story that should scandalise the people of Ireland, and to find out what happens in Irish hospitals that you would never hear about. We have spent 13 years trying to get justice for our father, and finally that day is coming thanks to my family and I.

“No-one within the UHL or HSE helped us; no-one at government level. And I tried everybody. No politician helped us. One politician I went to for help, after hearing of the story, simply said to me: ‘You’ve a great case there it seems’. As soon as I heard that, I felt he had no interest. As far as I was concerned, politicians didn’t want to know.

“And it took a normal family to seek justice for our dad with no help. And it’s the same now 13 years on with other deaths of young people. There are no politicians now roaring ‘enough is enough’; none of them demanding protests; none of them demanding a general election for the failure of the Minister for Health – for allowing the health service to decay like it has.

“None of them are on the streets demanding the reopening of A&Es and ending the trolley crisis.”

Instead, he said, our politicians are locked in meetings having discussions “but getting nowhere”.

“Our politicians have failed us,” he said, “Every single one of them” – a declaration that sparked cheering from the crowd.

Mr Daly urged Irish politicians to come out and publicly call for the reopening of A&Es. Unless they actively work towards that goal, there “will be no votes for you in the next election,” he said in a direct message to elected representatives in Limerick and beyond.

“It’s not enough to talk about beds, it’s not enough to talk about the poor management […] the time for talking is over, and the time for action is now”.

In a message to politicians and HSE management following the protest, he said: “They should know when to concede, and after [seeing] the thousands there today, should immediately put plans in place to reopen all three A&Es”.

Speaking to Gript, he said the protest saw “numbers beyond expectations” – something which he says is a clear sign of the public unrest and appetite for change and improvement. According to An Gardai Siochanna, 11,000 people attended the protest.

WATCH: Crowds hear ‘time for action is now at UHL protest:

The protest comes in the wake of the tragic death of a 16-year-old girl who passed away from bacterial meningitis after waiting up to 16 hours to be treated at UHL. Mr Daly told Gript the tragic death just before Christmas was the catalyst for organising the protest which took place this afternoon.

Speaking to us ahead of the protest, Mr Daly said people were uniting to “march for the legacy of two young children who passed away needlessly from waiting times at UHL”.

Today’s protest marks exactly three and a half years since the death of 21-year-old Eve Cleary, who waited 17 hours to be seen at UHL in 2019. Speaking to Gript, Eve’s mother Melanie says that while she is aware staff are under immense pressure, she believes the length of time her daughter had to wait at UHL contributed to her “needless” death.

One speaker at the march was the mother of 21-year-old Eve, who died shortly after being discharged from the hospital in summer 2019.

Speaking to Gript, Eve’s mother, Melanie Sheehan-Cleary, who is involved with the MidWest Hospital Campaign, said that she was participating in the protest as part of her daughter’s legacy.

“We protested back in February 2020,” she said, adding: “But nothing has really changed since”.

She said she was hopeful that long-running calls from families such as hers to reopen surrounding A&Es, which were closed as part of a reconfiguration in 2009, have now been backed by politicians, with more people starting to speak out.

Organiser Mike Daly thanked people for turning out – paying tribute to those who marched for “our families and friends”, “the whole of the midwest” and “for ourselves, and our safety when attending UHL A&E”.

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