The Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) in Nenagh General Hospital should be able to get through 16 to 20 patients per day with a full compliment of staff but is currently only seeing 6 to 8 patients per day, according to a north Tipperary GP. This compares to Ennis MAU, where upwards of 24 people are seen per day by the specialised consultant, supported by a registrar, nursing support and administrative support teams.
In a letter to Deputy Jackie Cahill this week, the North Tipperary GP who asked to remain anonymous stated that the lack of efficiency in the Nenagh MAU is resulting in the 35 north Tipperary GPs having to send their patients into the A&E in Limerick Regional Hospital for assessment rather than to the local Nenagh MAU.
The GP said that this issue “appears to be a management/consultant-led problem which needs rapid resolution. Now that the winter season is upon us, and pressure is increasing, this particular resource really needs to be made more available to GPs. This particular deficiency cannot be blamed on COVID so please don’t use that as an excuse.”
Speaking on this today, the Fianna Fáil T.D. for Tipperary said: “I have been raising the issues facing Nenagh Hospital MAU for a number of months at this stage. I was first contacted by concerned staff members in the hospital who raised the fact that the unit was often closed for days on end due to a lack of adequate staffing numbers to manage and operate the vital facility efficiently and safely. This was resulting in appointments being postponed and assessments delayed.
“I have also raised this issue in the Dáil previously and I am currently awaiting a response to a fresh series of Parliamentary Questions that the HSE are due to answer in the coming days. In recent weeks, a number of north Tipperary’s 35 GPs have contacted me raising concerns over the operations and efficiency of the Nenagh MAU, and now I have received this written complaint from one GP in particular who has naturally requested to remain anonymous.
“The GP in question informs me that the Nenagh MAU has never reached the 16 to 20 patient per day efficiency that it should be able to manage. Instead, as few as 6 patients are seen per day. And this is only on the days that the unit is actually open and taking referrals. This compares with the Ennis MAU, which regularly assesses upwards of 24 people per day.
“For every patient referred to Nenagh MAU by their GP who cannot be seen there, that is another person who has to go into A&E in Limerick Regional Hospital instead. We all know the state of affairs in UHL with waiting times and trolley numbers.
“The MAU in Nenagh, if operating at full capacity with a full complement of dedicated staff would take serious pressure off the A&E in Limerick. It would also mean that North Tipperary people would not be sent to A&E and could instead be seen and treated locally with less stress on themselves and their family members.
“I have been calling for months now for the HSE to ensure that a full complement of staff, including a registrar, consultant, nursing and administrative team be appointed to the MAU in Nenagh Hospital on a full-time basis. This would take pressure off existing staff in Nenagh General Hospital who simply cannot be expected to keep the MAU running along with their own responsibilities.
“I await a response from the HSE in relation to the current series of Parliamentary Questions I put down on this issue. Depending on the answer I receive from these, I will again be making contact with Minister Donnelly and bringing this GP’s letter to his attention.
“The GP who wrote to me stated that this issue has been ‘rumbling away for the past year and is very unsatisfactory for GPs who end up having to refer patients to the A&E Department either in Limerick or Clonmel in order to have a timely assessment carried out on a sick patient.’ This issue has gone on long enough and immediate HSE action in response to this is the only solution”, Cahill concluded.