New emergency department at University Hospital Limerick opens to patients

Facility cost €24m to develop and is three times more spacious than former A&E

New emergency department at University Hospital Limerick opens to patients

UHL CEO Colette Cowan (right) with nurses Ingrid O'Brien and Petra Petrovic in the new ED Pictures: Alan Place

THE long awaited new emergency department at University Hospital Limerick which cost around €24m to develop has finally opened its doors to patients this Monday morning.

The keenly anticipated facility, it is hoped, will help to ease overcrowding in the Dooradoyle hospital. There were 64,443 attendances at the ED in 2016 – making it the busiest such facility in the country.

The opening of the new facility follows almost 10 years of ‘horrendous’ overcrowding for patients and staff, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

The new facility is three-times more spacious than the current A&E - at 3,850 square metres of floor space - more compartmentalised, and especially more visually pleasing. Members of the media got a tour of the new ED on Friday.

One of the striking new features is the triage room capacity — instead of one triage room, there are four.

And where pediatric patients would be seen in the same triage area, they now have their own designated waiting room, and designated x-ray facilities, both for children and adults.

Dr Cormac Mehigan, emergency medicine consultant, said that the new facility will also significantly reduce “the movement of seriously-ill patients”. For example, patients can be resuscitated in CT room, where previously, patients would have to be moved from one unit to another.

Patients will also have access to an open courtyard, a feature that was not available in the previous emergency department.

The hospital has also invested in a more advanced pneumatic tube system, which will allow medical staff to propel blood samples from a number of locations within the department, instead of one central location.

As the hospital advances its digitalisation, a specific focus has been on an improved patient data system. Joe Hoare, of HSE Estates, said that the ICT infrastructure in the hospital is “quite phenomenal”.

Almost 100 additional staff have been recruited to work in the ED, which has increased capacity for patients and has been designed with the input of senior clinicians to improve patient flow, reduce patient experience times (and improve outcomes for the sickest patients, a UL Hospitals spokesperson explained.

The hospital said the new ED features the most advanced diagnostic equipment of any such facility in Ireland or the UK, including an approximately €1 million, 128-slice CT scanner.

"We are delighted to open the most modern ED in Europe. It is something our patients and our staff have been waiting a long time for and we thank the HSE and the Department of Health for their support in delivering an ED the whole country can be proud of," said Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group.

"We know from our patients that many of the problems associated with the old ED were environmental. The department was simply too small to treat patients with the dignity and privacy they deserve at such a vulnerable time. The new department will return that dignity and privacy to them; it will help us minimise the risk of infection for our patients; it will allow for more prompt investigations, earlier treatments and better outcomes and it is designed very much with patient comfort in mind."