Capping the number of patients waiting on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick at 20 a day, is one of the initiatives undertaken to deal with the crisis in the hospital emergency department.

That is according to the new CEO of the University hospital Limerick group Professor Colette Cowan.

Professor Cowan was addressing a meeting of the board of the UL hospital group in Limerick today which was held in public.

However, twice this week that cap has been breached with 34 patients waiting on trolleys last Tuesday and 29 on Wednesday.

Professor Cowan said the cap of 20 is there as a directive for staff, but that surges will be seen from time to time.

She said they had begun moving one patient to each of the hospital wards to bring the emergency department figures down, and that moving patients this way was a safer practice than keeping them in a small and crowded emergency department. 

The board was also told that the new emergency department at University hospital Limerick will not be ready for patients until the end of 2016.

When asked why it could not be done sooner, Professsor Cowan said there were major safety and electrical issues to be considered in the construction of the new emergency department.

It is being built under the new Critical Care unit, which is open a year and which houses the intensive care, high dependency and cardiac care units, and they had to ensure there was no interruption to power in that unit.

The meeting also heard that 184 people had now received life saving treatment in the new Critical Care unit in the past year, described as one of the best units of its type in the country.