A UNIQUE collaboration between University of Limerick and UL Hospitals Group has led to the opening of an Intermediate Care Facility at the UL Sports Arena.
The field hospital, which has been constructed with the assistance of the Defence Forces over the last month, was officially opened this Monday by UL President, Dr Des Fitzgerald, and Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group.
The ICF is a fully staffed and fully equipped Model One hospital facility that will provide care for non-Covid patients who are fit for discharge from any of the acute hospitals in UL Hospitals Group, but who would benefit from further rehabilitation, or may be waiting to go into long term care.
Constructed at a cost of around €1m, the 68-bed facility is laid out in partitioned wards, and is fitted out with a typical ward support accommodation such as clean and dirty utilities, pharmacy, pantry, staff change, clinical treatment areas, two recreation areas, and four enclosed rooms.
Staffed by all grades, it will operate 24-7 and is expected to remain operation until at least September and possibly until November.
The ICF was initially developed as a contingency facility, and a solution to the patient flow and crowding challenges experienced in the region’s hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately we are not going to be in a position to use our Arena facility in the way in which we normally would during Semester 1 of our next academic year. Repurposing the Arena as a care facility allows UL to remain at the centre of our region’s response to this pandemic," said UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald, who first mooted the idea of a field hospital on the UL campus in early March.
“The ICF will provide a unique opportunity for training of UL healthcare students and has significant potential for research for the University. It is likely that there will be patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and this would be the ideal situation to observe their continued recovery from a disease with largely unknown long-term consequences,” he added.
Speaking ahead of the arrival of the first patients to the facility, Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group said the new facility will be vital in helping UL to deal with patient flow.
“Area Crisis Management Teams have devised Intermediate Care Plans in the event of a resurgence of COVID-19. This is especially relevant in the Mid-West where baseline bed capacity is lower and there is limited private hospital capacity. We are working with community colleagues on further increasing intermediate care once we vacate the UL Arena. In addition, there are four new-build projects within our Group that will deliver up to 122 new beds for the region," she said.
The 60-bed block at UHL is due for completion before the end of 2020, while two single-room en-suite blocks (one 24-bed, and one 14-bed) are scheduled for completion at the UHL site by the late summer.
A separate 24-bed single-room en-suite block is being built at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, and that too is due to be completed by the end of the summer.
Professor Paul Burke, Chief Academic Officer at UL Hospitals Group and Vice Dean of Health Sciences at UL, who was executive lead on the ICF project, has welcomed the opening of the Intermediate Care Facility.
“This facility will mean that the people of our region can rest assured that contingency capacity is now in place to support UL Hospitals Group, either in the case of the general capacity issues or indeed in the case of a second surge of Covid-19. It has been heartening to see the tremendous ‘shoulder to the wheel’ attitude and spirit of staff both at the University and within the Hospital Group to get this facility in place," he said.
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