MINISTER for Health Simon Harris and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan attended University Hospital Limerick (UHL) to officially open what is Ireland’s largest Emergency Department.
The €24m department was officially opened on Monday June 12, but has been operational since May. The new department provides a significantly enhanced patient experience and is equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment allowing for faster investigations and treatments for the sickest patients, improving outcomes.
Speaking on the day, Minister Harris said, “When I came to visit the old Emergency Department in this hospital, I genuinely was quite shook.” The Minister added, ”I was shook that regardless of the excellent care the staff were endeavouring to provide in extraordinarily difficult circumstances; the environment was quite simply not possible to provide and guarantee dignity, privacy and basic decency.”
The Minister for Health took the opportunity to announce funding for the design of a new 96-bed block in the Hospital. Minister Harris said the Emergency Department was the first of two serious issues that needed to be addressed in the Hospital.
There has been deficit of beds in this hospital, this has been case for many years I am very pleased that we have now approved funding to go to the design stage of the 96 bed block,” said Minister Harris before adding, “this is the first step in what we need to do to make sure we build that 96 bed block.”
The new ED has been funded by the HSE and occupies the Ground Floor of both the €40m Critical Care Block which opened in late 2014 and the more recently constructed Dialysis Unit at first-floor level.
In 2016, UHL had the busiest ED in the country, with over 64,000 attendances. Almost 100 additional staff have been recruited to work in the Emergency Department, including 30 new nursing positions.
The department has increased capacity for patients and has been designed with the input of senior clinicians to improve patient flow, reduce patient experience times (PET) and improve outcomes for the sickest patients.
Prof Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said, “Since opening the department two weeks ago, we have been heartened by the response of patients and their families and of our own staff. It has been designed very much with patient comfort in mind. Small design details stand out everywhere you look, for example with non-slip floors, better signage and handrails to allow elderly patients better navigate the department.”
The new Emergency Department includes €4m worth of new equipment, including a €1m CT scanner which allows for earlier diagnosis and treatment of patients in Resuscitation.
The facility is separated into different pods and zones, allowing for paediatric patients, major cases, minor cases etc to be treated separately, matched to the most appropriate clinical expertise and moved to the next stage of their care in the most efficient manner.
Each separate area has its own isolation facilities that offer a gold standard in infection prevention and control. The number of triage areas has increased from one to four, including a separate room for paediatric triage.
Other features include a decontamination suite; two family rooms attached to a viewing room and garden for bereaved relatives; an internal courtyard which can be accessed by patients; a dedicated space for patients presenting with a mental health crisis; significantly improved staff facilities and a simulation room and education/training facilities that will significantly enhance the attractiveness of UHL as a major teaching hospital.
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