Letterkenny University Hospital

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Letterkenny University Hospital
Health Service Executive
Location Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland
Care system HSE
Hospital type University
Emergency department Reopened
Founded 1960
Hospital building before the floods
Reception desk area before the floods

Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) (Irish: Ospidéal na hOllscoile Leitir Ceanainn) is an acute university and maternity hospital serving 147,000 inhabitants of County Donegal in Ireland.

One of Ireland's busiest,[1] the campus is divided by a main road heading on towards the North/West of Donegal on the N56 road (Ireland) .[2] A teaching hospital, it maintains links with NUI Galway, LYIT and the Royal College of Surgeons. The General Manager is Sean Murphy, the Director of Nursing is Dr. Anne Flood and the Clinical Director is Dr. Paul O'Connor.[3]

LUH has been affected by the problems faced by Ireland's crumbling Health Service, extending back to the Fianna FáilProgressive Democrat governments of Bertie Ahern and Mary Harney to the present Fine GaelLabour coalition.[4][5][6][7] A common feature is the treatment of patients on trolleys due to chronic bed shortages.[8][9] The hospital was closed for nine months when it was destroyed by flooding in July 2013 which caused €40 million worth of damage.[10][11] The hospital was closed once again due to flooding following heavy rainfall a year later, in August 2014.[12][13]



Donegal was first served by the County Hospital which opened in 1832 and closed on 31 August 1960. The General Hospital replaced it. Nowadays the hospital consists of a single storey building that dates from the 1960s, and a multi-storey extension built above this and opened in 1981. Most of the facilities are housed in this building but some, such as the dental, ophthalmic and some mental health facilities, are housed across the road in St. Conal's Psychiatric Hospital.

Treatment of Seamus Heaney[edit]

Seamus Heaney, awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, and his wife were driven here after Seamus had a stroke in 2006.[14][15]

Axe and knife incidents[edit]

On 14 July 2009, a gang of men entered the hospital, one of them brandishing an axe. He subsequently made his way to floor E where he barricaded himself into the staff room. Areas of the hospital were sealed off during the incident to prevent further movement. The man was later talked out by family members and staff and surrendered the axe. He was making his way to the intensive care unit to visit the husband of a deceased member of his family. He had taken a drug overdose after his wife died in a car crash. Another man entered the intensive care unit dressed as a priest with a knife hidden under his garments. He left the scene peacefully.[16][17]

New emergency department[edit]

In November 2008, it was confirmed that work would begin on a new emergency department and medical wards at the hospital, of about 6,600 square metres. Construction began in January 2009, at a cost of approximately €22 million, and was expected to be completed in late 2010. The new facility was to provide three medical floors consisting of 72 beds, two thirds of which were to be provided in single rooms. The new emergency department would have 19 treatment spaces, incorporate an 11-bed medical assessment unit and an x-ray room. The mortuary chapel would be moved from its current position to a new location during construction.[18] Health Minister James Reilly finally opened the new unit in 2013.


Flood in 2013[edit]

Following a heatwave across Ireland on 26 July 2013,[19] a thunderstorm brought heavy rain, causing a nearby river to burst its banks. The resulting flood "completely destroyed" the new emergency department, swept much of the rest of the hospital away and led to the evacuation of patients.[20] A state of emergency was declared.[21] The flooding also destroyed the radiology department, outpatient department, pathology and medical records departments, kitchens and numerous wards.[22] The hospital's X-ray facilities and CT scanners were destroyed.

Fire crews pumped out the floodwaters and off-duty staff rushed back to the hospital to help patients to safety and to try to save any medical files that had been untouched by the raw sewage that had flooded the hospital.[23] Blame for the scale of the damage was laid on cutbacks at Donegal County Council which led to drains outside the hospital going uncleaned for seven months. As a result, the floodwaters had nowhere to go.[24]

Hospital manager Sean Murphy said: "The speed with which it happened was incredible. We had an hour that changed the face of the hospital." All prospective patients were directed to hospitals in Sligo and Derry, which put extra strain on those hospitals, which were already struggling to cope with patients from their own counties.[25][26]

In August 2013, nurses at the hospital were told they would have to travel to Derry, across the border in Northern Ireland, to help deal with the overflow of patients there. This created further bureaucratic problems as they were required to be registered to work in the United Kingdom.[27] Also that month, the mobile kitchens used during the 39th G8 summit at Lough Erne were brought to the hospital, to deal with the problems arising from the destruction of the hospital's kitchens.[28] All catering until then was delivered to the hospital by nearby hotels and restaurants.[24]

As a result of the disaster, Ireland's fourth largest county was left without a functioning emergency department, with the nearest one in the state being two counties away in Sligo General Hospital. Seriously ill inhabitants were evacuated from the county by the coastguard helicopter, which was put on 24-hour standby.[28] Parts of the hospital were expected to have to be demolished, further increasing the final cost of repairing the damaged hospital.[28]

€40 million worth of damage was done to the hospital and it re-opened after nine months, in March 2014.[13][29]

Political response[edit]

Taoiseach Enda Kenny remarked that the floods had "destroyed a first class medical facility" and called the damage "very substantial - records lost, MRI machine, diagnostics laboratory, walls to be stripped and decontaminated. It means, effectively, that Letterkenny General Hospital will be out of operation for a considerable time".[10] He did not visit the hospital and was heavily criticised for not doing so. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, himself a former Minister for Health who had announced the new emergency department almost exactly ten years previously,[30] visited the hospital on 31 July. Martin said: "The sheer scale of the devastation following last week's floods has to be seen to be believed. This level of damage is unprecedented for any Irish hospital in living memory, and there are serious implications for health service provision right across the North West."[31]

On the same day as Martin's visit to the damaged hospital, junior health minister Kathleen Lynch came to see for herself. However, during her visit, she became ill and was the first and last person to be admitted to the hospital since the flood.[32][33] Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams visited the hospital the following day.[34]

Meanwhile, consultant oncologist and senator John Crown was critical of the lack of media interest in the events outside the area affected. He said online: "If [a] flood like Letterkenny Hosp[ital] flood had happened in [a] Dublin hospital [I] suspect it would have greater coverage."[35]

Flood in 2014[edit]

The hospital was closed once again due to flooding following heavy rainfall on 5 August 2014, five months after re-opening. An investigation was begun into the reason for the flooding. A Donegal County councillor demanded an independent inquiry into the building of the new wing of the hospital which was built in a hollow.[12][13]

Ebola outbreak[edit]

On 21 August 2014, the post-mortem room at Letterkenny General Hospital was sealed off after the body of a man in his forties from the Mountcharles area was brought there.[36] The man, thought to have contracted suspected Ebola virus disease, one of the deadliest known to humanity, had been working in Sierra Leone.[37]


The main hospital building has a total of five storeys, labelled Floors A to E in ascending order. Upper floors may be accessed by stairs or by lifts, of which there are three. Floor A is dedicated to reception, administration and the day clinic and also contains the hospital shop. Floor B contains the Emergency Department, Coronary Care Unit, radiography, Medical Wards 1, 2 and 3, Maternity Unit, Gynaecology Ward, Post Department, Stationery Department, coffee dock and staff canteen among other facilities. Floor C houses the Orthopaedic and Paediatric Units and Floor D houses Surgical Wards 1 and 2, as well as the HDU (High Dependency Unit). Floor E houses Theatre, where most surgery takes place, and is also where the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and its waiting room may be found.


  • Cardiology Department
  • Catering Services
  • Clinical Audit
  • Central Sterile Services Department
  • Colposcopy Clinic
  • Education Centre
  • Emergency Department
  • Facilities Department
  • Fetal Assessment Unit
  • Gynaecology Department
  • Haematology Services
  • Human Resources Department
  • Maternity Department
  • Medical Department
  • Mental Health Services
  • Mortuary
  • Neo Natal Unit
  • Nurse Practice Development Unit
  • Occupational Therapy Department
  • Oncology Department
  • Orthopaedic Department
  • Out Patient Clinics
  • Paediatric Services
  • Pathology Department
  • Regional Kidney Centre
  • Surgical Department
  • Urodynamnics



  1. ^ "Hospital Manager says Letterkenny General will thrive in West/Northwest Hospital group". Highland Radio. 24 July 2013. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Hospital Profile". Health Service Executive. Archived from the original on 2013-08-01. 
  3. ^ "Letterkenny General Hospital". Health Service Executive. 
  4. ^ "Bed shortages in Letterkenny". Irish Health. 26 November 2004. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2004. 
  5. ^ "18 patients on trolleys in Letterkenny". Inishowen News. 1 June 2011. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2011. 
  6. ^ "Letterkenny ward closed due to vomiting bug". RTÉ News. 11 April 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  7. ^ "Protest outside Letterkenny hospital". RTÉ News. 22 February 2005. Retrieved 22 February 2005. 
  8. ^ "Bed crisis swamps hospital staff at Letterkenny General Hospital". Donegal Democrat. 24 November 2011. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  9. ^ McGrory, Linda (19 January 2012). "592 patients treated on trolleys in Letterkenny in 2011". Inishowen News. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Flooding damage closes Letterkenny Hospital". Leitrim Observer. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Letterkenny hospital services set to reopen after flood damage RTÉ News, 2014-03-03.
  12. ^ a b Letterkenny General Hospital reopens after flooding RTÉ News, 2014-08-06.
  13. ^ a b c Investigation launched into how emergency department flooded for second time in a year[permanent dead link] Irish Independent, 2014-08-06.
  14. ^ "Poet 'cried for father' after stroke". BBC News. 20 July 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2009. 
  15. ^ McCrum, Robert (19 July 2009). "A life of rhyme". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2009. 
  16. ^ "Calls for increased security at LGH following axe incident". Highland Radio. 15 July 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Security worries at LGH following axe incident". Ocean FM. 15 July 2009. Archived from the original on July 18, 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2009. 
  18. ^ "Work to begin at Letterkenny A&E". RTÉ News. 14 November 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2008. 
  19. ^ "Torrential downpours drench the country in one of the wettest days since the heatwave finished". Mirror. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  20. ^ "Letterkenny Hospital partially evacuated after flooding destroys ground floor". The Journal. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  21. ^ "Letterkenny Hospital evacuated as flood waters pour into new emergency department". Donegal Daily. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  22. ^ "Emergency declared at Letterkenny hospital following severe flooding". RTÉ News. 26 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  23. ^ Heffernan, Breda; Maguire, Stephen (27 July 2013). "Hospital evacuated after storms cause flood chaos". Irish Independent. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Bonner, Aine; McGrory, Linda (30 July 2013). "Hospital drains neglected after cutbacks". Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  25. ^ "80 patients in Derry after LGH Accident and Emergency flood". Derry Journal. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  26. ^ Maguire, Stephen (30 July 2013). "Flooding repairs at Letterkenny hospital to take months: More than 40 per cent of hospital was flooded last week". The Irish Times. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  27. ^ "Nurses asked to transfer to Derry after Letterkenny flooding". Donegal Daily. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  28. ^ a b c Heaney, Kate; O'Regan, Eilish (2 August 2013). "€10m and rising – bill for damage at flooded hospital". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  29. ^ Letterkenny hospital services set to reopen after flood damage RTÉ News, 2014-03-03.
  30. ^ "New A&E dept for Letterkenny hospital". RTÉ News. 17 July 2003. Retrieved 17 July 2003. 
  31. ^ "Micheal Martin calls for 'clear commitment' to Letterkenny Hospital". Donegal Daily. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  32. ^ "Junior health minister takes ill during visit to flood-hit hospital". Irish Examiner. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  33. ^ McFadden, Eamonn (31 July 2013). "Minister taken ill on hospital visit". Donegal Democrat. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  34. ^ "Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams to visit Letterkenny hospital". Donegal News. 1 August 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  35. ^ "Thoughts on Letterkenny General Hospital flood". John Crown. 30 July 2013. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  36. ^ "Ebola outbreak: Suspected case in County Donegal". BBC News. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  37. ^ Edwards, Elaine; Wall, Martin (21 August 2014). "Tests under way for Ebola following Donegal death: Man who died had been working in an area of Africa affected by the virus outbreak". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 August 2014. The disease is one of the deadliest known to humanity. It has no proven cure and there is no vaccine. The rigorous use of quarantine is needed to prevent its spread, as well as high standards of hygiene for anyone who might come into contact with it. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°57′24″N 7°43′32″W / 54.956542°N 7.725474°W / 54.956542; -7.725474