‘Third-world conditions’ at Limerick hospital: ‘My mother’s last hours were horrendous’

UHL overcrowding: ‘What I saw, what I heard and the smells will stay with me forever.’
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

15.24 4 Apr 2024

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‘Third-world conditions’ at Li...

‘Third-world conditions’ at Limerick hospital: ‘My mother’s last hours were horrendous’

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

15.24 4 Apr 2024

Share this article

A Limerick woman has warned that her mother’s last few hours on this earth were “absolutely horrendous” due to the “third world conditions” at the University Hospital Limerick Emergency Department.

Over the last few days, Lunchtime Live has been highlighting the conditions at the Limerick hospital, which is regularly the most overcrowded in the country.

A protest was held at the hospital this afternoon as the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and HSE Chief Bernard Gloster were visiting.


The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has described UHL’s Emergency Department as a ‘war zone’ – and Lunchtime Live has been flooded with emails from patients about the conditions all this week.

Limerick woman Teri Coffey told the show that her mother was admitted to the Emergency Department six months ago today after suffering a heart attack.

She said she will “never, ever forget” what happened next for as long as she lives.

“When we got to the hospital, there was no room for them to actually bring Mum through,” she said.

“So the ambulance driver - it was a bit like the scene from an officer and a gentleman - he picked Mum up and carried her in his arms to a trolley.

“The place was absolutely jammers. It's just something I will never forget.

Donal and Mary Coffey. Image: Supplied

“If I could have taken her out of there, I would but that’s the problem, you've no choice; when somebody is that sick, you just have to take a chance and stay there.

“What I saw and what I heard and the smells will stay with me forever, I think.

“I drive past there [now] and I bless myself and I just say, ‘Please God, nobody that I know will ever have to face that in there again.

“It was absolutely horrendous.”

"Absolute hell"

Teri said the staff working at the hospital were “amazing” – but the conditions they are working in are appalling.

“They are heroes in my eyes,” she said. “What they are living through and putting up with every day is absolute hell.

“How they walk in there every day and start working in those conditions is just beyond me.”

"Just unbelievable"

Teri said there were patients on trolleys who were on their own with no support from family members.

“There was a woman, I can still hear her, she was crying and crying, ‘Please, please, somebody help me; somebody let me go to the toilet.’

“I felt like going over and helping her but needless to say, you can't do that.

“There was a man beside me that kept asking, and eventually he was brought into a cubicle with the door open, put on a commode, and next thing the smells that emanated from the cubicle, we could all get it.

“Where I was standing, there was a man on the trolley to my left, his feet were literally touching my shoulder, I was kind of afraid to move.

“On my right, the man was lying with his back to me, but his gown had opened and everything was there, visible.

“He, God love him, urinated himself.

“There were people getting sick into little cardboard bowls – it was just unbelievable.”

University Hospital Limerick, 29-7-23. University Hospital Limerick, 29-7-23. Image: Karlis D / Alamy

She said the trolleys were lined up beside two cubicles which, it later transpired, were hosting COVID patients.

Teri said her father had a similar experience at the hospital four years ago and the situation was the exact same, only worse because there were even more people”.

“There were so many elderly people there who couldn't move and ended up having to stay there, soiling themselves,” she said.

“It was just horrendous.”

"Third-world conditions"

After 12 hours in the hospital, Teri was told that her mother was in heart failure and was going to pass away.

She was moved into a ward where she died.

“My thing is, my mother's last few hours were absolutely horrendous,” she said.

“She was a tiny little woman; she was six stone weight and for her to end her days like that and my dad, in fact, to have to go through those experiences, I will never, ever, ever forget as long as I live.”

Teri said she advised all her friends with elderly parents never to take them to UHL – and to drive to Dublin or Cork instead.

“Surely to God there has to be some alternative to this,” she said. “It was like third-world conditions.”

101 patients are waiting for a bed at UHL today alone.

Nationwide there 587 patients waiting for a bed in Irish hospitals, according to the INMO, with 436 waiting in Emergency Departments.

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