24-hour hospital assessment will play central role in winter plan

University Hospital Limerick

EXTENDED access to emergency hospital services and enhanced community supports for the elderly are at the centre of the winter plan to reduce trolley waiting numbers and help deliver community and acute services in the Mid-West over the coming weeks.

€1.14 million has been allocated to UL Hospitals Group to implement the plan which will include the opening of a new 19-bay Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) at University Hospital Limerick which will operate on a 24/7 basis.


The current AMAU staff will be transferred to the new unit with an increase in numbers to support an expanded service. It is expected that the introduction of round-the-clock opening hours at the AMAU will reduce the need to send patients to the emergency department.

The old 17-bay AMAU will be opened as an Acute Surgical Short Stay Unit on a phased basis in January to facilitate additional emergency procedures.

Additional emergency theatre lists will be introduced and there will be increased access to diagnostics (MRI) three evenings a week as well as having two new critical care beds.

HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare and UL Hospitals Group have combined resources to form a Winter Action Team to implement the changes.

HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare has also been allocated additional resources to support the winter period.  These include 36 additional Home Support Packages to support older people leaving hospital and, in some cases, as an alternative to hospital admission.

Additional funding of €350,000 has also been provided for the purchase of additional aids and appliances to support people at home.

UL Hospitals Group chief executive Prof Colette Cowan said that winter invariably presents challenges for acute, community and primary healthcare providers and this year will be no different.

“Ensuring integrated working between acute hospitals and the community over the winter period ensures the optimisation and alignment of existing resources and pathways.

“Between now and Christmas we will be focusing on de-escalating the UHL site, getting patients well and discharged home to their families, and winding down our elective activity to better manage any increase in emergency activity in January.

“Staff will continue to provide emergency services throughout the holiday period. We are currently engaging with staff representatives to provide enhanced services in the coming weeks.

She said it is expected that the emergency department will be very busy early in the new year.

“Patients will get safe care but may face long waits. The Injury Units are a good alternative for many of our patients. People should also consider the practical suggestions in the HSE’s ‘Be Winter Ready’ campaign: to ensure those with chronic conditions have had the flu vaccine; that elderly relatives have all their medications and prescriptions; that they have enough food and fuel during the winter period; that sensible precautions around hand-washing are being taken to reduce the risk of infections and so on,” she said.

HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare chief officer Bernard Gloster said that last year all community services routine work targeted more than 8,000 assisted discharges from acute hospitals.

“Already in 2018 we have seen this activity continue and expect that over the Winter period we will again add to this number”.

“Community Healthcare Service in all of our Primary Care Health Centres, and Mental Health Service, and Social Care Services, will be particularly focused in the coming weeks on helping where hospitalisation can be avoided and in assisting in cases where a patient can be discharged with supports,” he said.

Full details at http://www.hse.ie/winter