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Details of UHL staff shortages heard at inquest

The inquest into the death of Aoife Johnston has resumed at Kilmallock Courthouse, with details surrounding staff shortages and overcrowding being heard.

The 16-year-old died in University Hospital Limerick in December 2022, having waited several hours for treatment, after presenting with suspected sepsis.

The inquest, before Limerick Coroner John McNamara, has been hearing more details about staff shortages and overcrowding at the hospital’s Emergency Department on the weekend Ms Johnston attended there.

Assistant Director of Nursing Patricia Donovan was the first witness to give evidence, on the third day of proceedings.

She said her role was effectively that of a site manager at UHL, managing complaints and addressing issues.

Ms Donovan said five rostered nurses were not available to work in the ED, on the night of 17 December 2022. There were 153 people waiting at the start of her shift that night, with Covid, flu and other respiratory illnesses causing additional issues in the facility.

She said that over the course of the night, she spoke to the Clinical Nurse Manager Katherine Skelly a number of times regarding the myriad pressures in the ED.

Ms Donovan asked her to call two consultants, to advise them of the issues.

“I wanted [them] to be aware of the number of category 2 patients waiting to be seen,” she said.

This is the term used for those deemed to be in need of urgent care.

Both consultants declined to attend, but subsequently, the paediatric consultant did attend for two hours.

In the meantime, Ms Donovan called the ‘Executive on Duty’ Fiona Steed, advising her of a plan to open an overflow area and informing her of the consultants’ refusal to come into the ED.

Ms Donovan told the inquest the Emergency Consultant “would only attend for a major emergency, not for volume”.

She said Ms Steed told her she would raise the matter with clinical managers.

The inquest is continuing.

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