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New modular unit at UHL will tackle overcrowded trolley numbers

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A new sixty bed block at University Hospital Limerick opened on Monday while funding for design of a new 96 bed ward has been granted.

This is the first in a series of three wards that are to open at UHL with December 14th earmarked as the date in which the second ward will open while a third ward will open on January 4th. The new ward block will provide single-room inpatient accommodation and allow to isolate patients and improve infection prevention and control capabilities and is seen as a step in addressing the underlying bed capacity shortages in the Mid-West which are acknowledged by all parties.

The €19.5m 60-Bed Block comprises four stories, with three inpatient wards of 20 en-suite single rooms over a basement level. The projected opening timeline means 78 single rooms will be added by the end of this year and a further 20 beds will be added early in January 2021.

A recruitment campaign has been undertaken to support the opening of the new capacity and we have in recent days reached agreement with trade unions over the phased opening of the new capacity.

CEO of UL Hospitals Group, Colette Cowan believed the new accommodation will ‘greatly improve’ the care environment for oncology/haematology patients and “allowed us to increase our isolation facilities at a time when the need was never greater”.

She added, “Completion of the 60-Bed Block brings these improvements a significant step further and the bright modern accommodation is no less than what our patients and our staff deserve after many years where systemwide pressures have left too many of our patients facing long waits for a bed. The 60-Bed Block will improve but not solve the problem of trolley waits and our continued heavy reliance on outdated multi-occupancy nightingale wards. In that regard, we also look forward to the delivery of the 96-Bed Block project which continues to progress through the planning process.”

Lorraine Rafter Director of Human Resources, UL Hospitals Group confirmed that they have been funded to recruit approximately 500 additional staff in UL Hospitals Group to support the additional bed capacity at UHL and other initiatives under the Winter Plan 2020-2021.

Positions to successful candidates for staff nurses and midwives are being offered on a weekly basis, Margaret Gleeson, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, UL Hospitals Group outlined. “All current student nurses and midwives graduating from the University of Limerick have been offered permanent contracts. As of the end of October, we have recruited 150 nurses and 75 HCAs in the year to date. In addition, 16 nursing staff have returned from retirement or career breaks. A further 150 nurses have been recruited from overseas and they began taking up positions”.

Clare TD, Joe Carey (FG) said the “long process” would “greatly assist in reducing trolley numbers it will not solve the issue entirely.

He received confirmation from Ms Cowan that funding for design work for a new 96-bed ward at UHL has been provided in the HSE Capital Plan for 2021. A planning appplication was submitted to the local authority in August with confidence expressed that this will be granted in the coming months.

False dawns have been too common with the 60 bed modular unit, Cathal Crowe (FF) stated as he welcomed the development. “We are always the top of the list with overcrowding and we really need a better health system in this region”.

“It goes without saying that adding beds anywhere in the hospital network will have a positive domino effect and this will trickle down and alleviate the pressure on the emergency department, helping to drive those trolley numbers down. This isn’t going to be a magic fix to the issues with the Midwest health system but it’s a significant step in the right direction and I look forward to seeing it up and running,” Deputy Crowe added.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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