The doors finally opened on Monday to the long-awaited new emergency department at University Hospital Limerick. The €24 million project spans 3,850 square metres of floor space, over three times the size of the old department.

It is hoped that the new department will provide a better working environment for beleaguered hospital staff who have endured serious overcrowding while patients spending lengthy spells on trolleys awaiting a hospital bed.

On Monday the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation noted on their daily Trolley Watch report that 31 patients were still waiting on trolleys. Last year UHL had the busiest emergency department in Ireland with over 64,000 patients attending.

At the opening of the new emergency department Professor Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group, said the new unit is three times the size of the existing ED. Professor Cowan proudly declared, “It is the best ED in the country”.

The next phase for the hospital will be the addition of 96 beds and this is at design and planning stage. UHL also plans to provide 17 new temporary beds in the existing emergency department.

Clinical Nurse Manager Bridget Hoctor believes the new emergency department will make a huge difference for staff who were working in very cramped conditions and were unable to provide the standard of care they wanted.

Ms Hoctor also commented, “We are a teaching hospital. From a nursing perspective there’s huge opportunities for education within the nursing department and that will continue.”