Public urged to 'consider all options' before attending University Hospital Limerick due to overcrowding

Rebecca Laffan

Reporter:

Rebecca Laffan

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rebecca.laffan@iconicnews.ie

Public urged to 'consider all options' before attending University Hospital Limerick due to overcrowding

MEMBERS of the public are being asked to consider all their care options before presenting to the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick, it has been announced this Monday.

"We are appealing in particular to people with flu-like symptoms to phone their GP in the first instance and avoid visiting the ED unless necessary," said a UHL spokesperson.

"We urge the public to keep the ED for emergencies only; a place where priority is given to the seriously injured and ill and those whose lives may be at risk," it was added, "anyone else will likely face a long wait, and should first consider all the care options available to them in them in their own communities, their family doctors, out-of-hours GP services, or ask their local pharmacies for advice."

UHL points to the region's Local Injury Units (LIUs) at Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals (8am-8pm daily), and St John’s Hospital (8am-6pm, Monday to Friday) as an excellent option for treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns, without the lengthy wait that can be expected in the ED during busy periods.

Earlier today, UHL imposed a visiting ban as it continues to manage high numbers of patients with influenza. 

This Monday there were 28 inpatients with flu in UHL, with demand high for beds for patients with specific infection prevention and control requirements.

A ward at St John’s Hospital has been identified to cohort flu patients from UHL.

"The ED and the wider hospital are exceptionally busy at present and admitted patients are facing excessive wait times for a bed," added the spokesperson, "over the weekend, we saw a marked increase in the number of over-75s presenting and requiring admission to hospital."

"We regret that any patient, especially the elderly, has to wait on a trolley for admission. This is not the level of service we wish to provide but we want to reassure the public that every effort is made to move patients to a bed as soon as possible and that they continue to receive expert medical care while they wait."

In line with the UL Hospitals Group/HSE MidWest Community Healthcare Winter Plan 2019/2020, elective surgery has been significantly reduced for the first two weeks of January.

"This is in order to help us better manage the surge in emergency admissions due to flu and other winter illnesses at this time of year," it was added. 

Other elements of the winter plan include:

- The commencement of a new MRI service at UHL last week. The new service will facilitate speedier diagnostics, leading to reduced inpatient wait-times and more timely discharges.

- Additional trauma and emergency surgery lists are running

- Additional home support hours have been funded to facilitate early hospital to community transfers

- Additional staffing in key focus areas including non-consultant hospital doctors and healthcare assistants

- The number of assessment slots at the Medical Assessment Unit in Ennis has increased from today

- The planned opening in the coming days of the 15-bed Clinical Recovery and Support Unit at St John’s Hospital, with a full multidisciplinary team facilitating the transfer of patients with more complex care needs from UHL to St John’s.

"All surge capacity is open at UHL and we are currently identifying patients suitable for transfer/discharge as part of a range of escalation measures. Additional surge capacity has also been opened in Ennis and in Nenagh Hospital," the spokesperson said. 

"Measures being taken to relieve pressure on the ED and as part of our escalation policy also include the transfer of appropriate patients to community care settings and maximising access to homecare packages and transition care; working closely with Community Intervention Teams to provide antibiotics and other appropriate care in a patient’s home or care facility and communication with GPs to ensure patients are referred to ED only where appropriate.

"Despite these measures, inpatient bed capacity at UHL remains a challenge, and in the longer term, work on the €19.5m 60-bed block is well underway, and these beds are expected to be operational in Q4 2020. This project remains on schedule. In addition, progression of the 96-bed block remains a major priority for UL Hospitals Group management.