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*Photograph: Sean Curtin / True Media

An intermediate care facility at the University of Limerick has closed earlier than anticipated.

On Friday, UL Hospitals Group confirmed that the field hospital at UL had closed following five months of providing step-down rehabilitative care for non-COVID-19 patients.

Speaking at a meeting of Clare County Council in September, CEO of UL Hospitals Group, Colette Cowan stated that the facility would remain in operation until November. Discharges of patients from the ICF have been ongoing.

All ULHG staff who were redeployed to the temporary hospital facility in early June will be initially reassigned to University Hospital Limerick to support the phased opening of a new 14-bed block at the region’s main acute hospital. Seven of the beds opened on Friday with the remaining beds to be opened over the coming days.

Approximately 188 patients availed of rehabilitation at the ICF from June to October with rostered 24-7 cover provided by a workforce of some 70 UL Hospitals Group personnel, including consultant physicians, Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs), an Assistant Director of Nursing, Nursing staff, Health Care Assistants (HCAs, including medical and nursing students), Clinical Nurse Managers, a Ward Clerk, Patient Advocacy Liaison Service (PALS), a receptionist, catering, security personnel and porterage for day and night, and hygiene staff. 33 clinical placement students were catered to at the ICF.

Yvonne Young, Assistant Director of Nursing at the ICF, said “the ICF was more than a mere unit. It was something truly special—a hospital without doors, with the patient at the centre of a multidisciplinary team in which everyone had a voice. It was a very open facility in layout, and in spirit, where the ethos at all times was kindness. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and I feel the staff benefited as much as the patients. I’m hopeful that we can learn from this model of care for the benefit of all our hospitals”.

Professor Paul Burke, Chief Academic Officer of UL Hospitals Group and Vice Dean of Health Sciences at UL, was executive lead on the ICF project. “The model of joint care in the ICF, provided by the different AHS groups in conjunction with doctors and nurses, is a model that I hope will be retained in UL Hospitals. It has provided extraordinarily engaging learning opportunities for students, and benefited patients and staff alike. It has been a privilege to witness this project come to fruition, with tangible benefits for all, and I would like to thank everyone involved in making it possible.”

UL Hospitals Group CEO Colette Cowan paid tribute to all involved in making the ICF concept a reality, particularly the Group’s academic partner, the University of Limerick: “The ICF was a vital strategic element in our efforts to manage patient flow at this unprecedented and challenging time. We could not have done it without the generosity of our academic partner in providing the space for the facility.”

President of UL, Professor Kerstin May believed the field hospital “was an example of a very collaborative multi organisational solution to serve our community at an anxious and difficult time. Our students in many health disciplines had opportunities to experience excellent practice-based education and inter-professional collaboration at the facility and to be involved in giving care to patients with complex needs.”

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