Patients benefit from Limerick Hospital Group’s bed bureau

Bed Bureau
Bed Bureau team members Mary Hayes, Angela Cullen, Stacey Roe and Jim Keogh.

14,000 patients needing acute medical care have received appointments in the first 12 months of operation of the Bed Bureau at the University of Limerick Hospitals Group.

The Group established the Bed Bureau to make access to acute hospital care easier from primary care. This office, which is manned by clinical staff, receives calls from GPs who wish to have their patients admitted for acute medical care.

The office has received 14,000 referrals since the project went live at the start of the year. And one of the aims of the project is to minimise the risk of unnecessary waits in the Emergency Department at UHL.

The idea is that a GP wishing to have their patient admitted will contact the Bed Bureau on a dedicated line and will be given access to one of the Medical Assessment Units at University Hospital Limerick, Ennis, Nenagh or St John’s Hospital according to the referring GP’s preference.

It is felt that this will lead to a more efficient use of current resources and reduce congestion in the emergency department at UHL.

Bed Bureau
Mary Hayes takes a call at the UHL Bed Bureau.

According to the hospital group’s clinical director Prof Declan Lyons the Bed Bureau provides a structured methodology for accessing acute hospital care from primary care.

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“The initial phase of this initiative has worked better than expected and we now need to turn our efforts to ensuring that the Bed Bureau facilitates patient triage from primary care and not from the floor of the emergency department.”

And the reaction from local doctors has been largely positive.

Dr Emmet Kerin of the Treaty Medical Centre in Limerick said he had experience of working in the Acute Medical Assessment Unit in 2012 as a sessional doctor and had seen a huge evolution in the service with the advent of the Bed Bureau.

“The AMAU was a meaningful start in re-orientating how General Practice interacts with secondary care, giving access to urgent care. The unsustainable model of access through the doors of the Emergency Department had to change. A hospital needs to be viewed as having many doors of access and a functioning AMAU facilitates this .

“To be honest, in early days the AMAU struggled with timely access and frequently became overloaded with ED overflow and needed a mechanism to create scheduled flow.  The AMAU concept was correct but it needed something to allow it to flow and utilise all of the hospital group.

Bed Bureau
Limerick GP Emmet Kerin

“The Bed Bureau is simple at an oversight level having a single number to call in and direct the flow between the UL Hospitals Group of UHL, St John’s, Nenagh and Ennis.   However, credit has to be given to the hard work of the UL Hospital Group to fast-track and build the IT platform to enable the hospitals to communicate and share bed spaces in real time, driven by Prof Declan Lyons’ initiative with the concept of the Bed Bureau.

“My experience overall has been very positive. My patients are now aware of the high standards of care across the hospital group and actively seek care in what were once seen as peripheral Hospitals. The fear of access meaning hours on a trolley has been removed with scheduled appointment up to three days in advance.

“It’s another positive for the health service and Limerick should be proud to showcase it nationally as a mechanism to create efficiency and capacity in the system. We have so much to do and fix in our health service. This initiative gives me great hope that there are solutions, we just need to support those with the initiative,” Dr Kerin concluded.

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