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A business case for a major expansion at Ennis Hospital has been approved.

Clare Oireachtas members have received confirmation from UL Hospitals Group that the level of services at Ennis Hospital are to be increased.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has approved funding which will result in the recruitment of new staff and the expansion of the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) in Ennis Hospital by 48 slots per week, from 156 to 204 per week. The effect of the changes means the service in Ennis will have effectively doubled in the space of a year. €286,000 is said to be the amount approved.

MAU’s provide assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients referred with medical conditions including chest infections, COPD, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, fainting episodes, clots in the leg, anaemia or non-acute cardiac problems. Approximately 10% of cases may require admission to hospital and the majority will be discharged with a follow-up review in the unit within 48 hours.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Clare TD Michael McNamara (IND) stated, “Since my election to Dáil Éireann in February, I have repeatedly pressed HSE management and successive Ministers for Health Simon Harris and Stephen Donnelly on the need to increase services at Ennis Hospital. I want to acknowledge them for following through on commitments given to me that a business case would be prepared, submitted and reviewed by the end of 2020 with a view to immediately begin expanding the level of services provided in Ennis. This move provides considerable benefits for the people of Clare while it also will help to alleviate pressure on admissions to University Hospital Limerick, something which I have repeatedly highlighted during 2020”.

Deputy McNamara added, “The MAU service in Ennis, which saw a 4% increase in referrals in 2019, is well-established and is the only such service in the UL Hospitals Group that has been open on a seven-day basis since 2016. Its hours of operations during weekdays are also longer than in either Nenagh or St. John’s. The expansion of services, which will be very much welcomed by the people of Clare and the GP community in the county and beyond, is being carried out on a phased basis and commenced last week with additional four MAU slots per day.”

To support the expansion, the UL Hospitals Group has commenced a recruitment process for a number of positions, including in nursing (2 W.T.E.), medical (1 W.T.E. Senior registrar), allied health (1 W.T.E. radiographer, 0.5 W.T.E. physiotherapist), medical scientist (1 W.T.E.) and clerical support (0.5 W.T.E.) staff.

He explained, “The effect of the changes means the service in Ennis will have effectively doubled in the space of a year. The CEO of the UL Hospitals Group has informed me that the MAU team and Ennis Hospital will continue to work closely with their GP colleagues in County Clare and throughout the region. This model of care is particularly suitable for elderly people and patients suffering from chronic conditions, who will be seen and treated more quickly than they would be in a busy Emergency Department such as in University Hospital Limerick”.

A major difference will be experienced as a result of the funding, Deputy Cathal Crowe (FF) stated. “The news that services at Ennis General Hospital will be expanded couldn’t have come at a better time. Finance generated by the NTPF always makes a major difference to the provision of healthcare services and this grant of €286,000 to Ennis General is a key investment. This will now mean that the MAU at Ennis will have 204 slots per week, which is a massive increase on the availability there this time last year.

“As Clare’s only member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, I have continuously pushed for better resourcing of the Midwest hospitals – namely Ennis General and UHL – so I’m glad to be able to play a small part in achieving these wins for Clare,” Crowe added.

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