Four Limerick sites and new morgue for Covid-19 surge

Four Limerick sites and new morgue for Covid-19 surge

The temporary morgue on the site of Sarsfield Barracks in the city

LIMERICK is bracing itself for a surge in Covid-19 cases with four major projects now underway to deal with the potential overflow of patients from University Hospital Limerick.

And as well as the additional medical capacity, Sarsfield Barracks in the city has been identified as a temporary mortuary for people who die as a result of Covid-19.

As of this Wednesday morning 33 patients with Covid-19 were being treated at University Hospital Limerick, five of which were in the intensive care unit. There are now 160 cases of Covid-19 in Limerick. New figures revealed on Tuesday showed that  outside of Dublin hospitals, and after Cavan General Hospital, UHL had the most Covid-19 patients in the country.

As the disease continues to spread with the potential to inundate the local healthcare systems, four new facilities are under construction in the city and county.

The Limerick Leader has learned that the council is working on a temporary Covid-19 isolation site in Rathkeale for members of the Travelling community who may require it.

It is believed that a number of caravans are being purchased by the Department of Housing and will be placed in the old Andersen factory.

A source said: “It was a request by the HSE. If a person is showing symptoms or catches the virus and can't separate themselves from their family within their own caravan, then they can use the new caravans to self isolate.”

When contacted by the Leader, a council spokesperson said: “These are operational matters within Limerick City and County Council and we will not be commenting.”

At the University of Limerick work is expected to begin within the next week to 10 days on a major intermediate care facility in the sports hall at the UL Arena which will potentially accommodate up to 164 patients who have contracted Covid-19. 

HSE Estates meanwhile, has engaged a number of contractors to complete the design and build of two 24-bed single room en-suite blocks, one at UHL and one at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital. It is anticipated that both these projects will be complete in July.

Both projects involve a rapid build steel frame system that facilitates an earlier start to construction work and a more streamlined process than would be possible on traditional builds.

Local TD Niall Collins said “the extra bed capacity at Croom Orthopedic Hospital is very welcome and badly needed”.

A colossal tank of oxygen has also been installed on the University Hospital Limerick site in preparation for a surge in Covid cases.

With a significant decrease in presentations at the UHL emergency department by people suffering acute medical episodes such as heart attacks and strokes Dr Samer Arnous, a consultant cardiologist with UL Hospitals Group has urged the public to go to the hospital if they are seriously unwell.

“We don’t have exact figures yet but we usually see on average one or two heart attacks per day and we are now seeing that per week. So there is certainly a significant drop and unfortunately a lot of the people who do come in are sicker than we would usually see,” Dr Arnous told the Leader.

“People are maybe thinking the symptoms aren’t too bad, the chest pain isn’t always severe. They don’t want to go in, to make sure they don’t contract the Covid-19 virus and maybe people are thinking there are others worse off than I am and I’m not going to take a bed which may be needed for somebody else.

“ Your risk of getting an infection is very low and your risk of having a problem or complications by not presenting if you have a serious problem is significantly higher,” Dr Arnous warned.

Ahead of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group has urged the public to stay at home this weekend “and to remember that Ballybunion and Kilkee will still be there when the emergency passes and we can enjoy it all the more.”

“There can be no room for complacency and we thank the public for their continued cooperation,” said Ms Cowan. “As we go into a bank holiday weekend, we ask that people consider health workers and the vulnerable members of our community. We ask that people enjoy Easter at home with their immediate families, to connect with relatives by phone or video call and to remember that Ballybunion and Kilkee will still be there when the emergency passes and we can enjoy it all the more.”

There was widespread anger this Wednesday lunchtime at scenes on Shannon Bridge in the city captured by Leader reporter Nick Rabbitts. The image shows long tailbacks on a key route into Limerick city centre as a crackdown on people travelling began. With all but key workers asked to remain home, and restrict their movements to avoid the spread of Covid-19, garda checkpoints were set up in various parts of the city.

Meanwhile, the Limerick Leader understands that the authorities visited a house of worship this week after it emerged that the sacrament of Holy Communion was being administered by members of the clergy from a residence beside the church.

A parishioner made contact with the Limerick Leader to voice his disappointment that the clergy were told to refrain from administering the Eucharist, on health and safety grounds. It is understood that up to four times a day a small queue of people would line up outside the residence, while observing social distancing, before receiving the Eucharist on their tongue.

This Wednesday, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said in a statement to the Leader: “People have a deep longing for the connection that Holy Communion gives and priests have been asked by a very small number of parishioners to accommodate this over recent weeks.  However, we have reiterated to them that, in the current environment and as well intentioned as it would be to provide this sacrament, we simply cannot for public health reasons. 

 “We do appreciate people’s disappointment but we are also grateful for most people’s understanding of the situation in these challenging times. What we do now is recommend the practice of spiritual communion to all who cannot receive the Eucharist at this time.”



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