45 hospitalised with flu symptoms

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45 people were admitted to hospital with flu symptoms in the Mid West last month, some of them seriously unwell, according to University Limerick Hospitals group chief executive Professor Colette Cowan.

27 of those who were so ill that they had to be treated as in-patients at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) while the others were admitted to hospitals including John’s, Ennis and Nenagh.

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And medics have appealed to even young people to get the flu vaccination as numbers coming to the emergency department in Limerick seeking help escalate.

In a statement this week, the hospital pointed to attendances at the Emergency Department at UHL which increased last week and are expected to rise further in the coming weeks.

Huge numbers of elderly patients with medical conditions, in particular respiratory conditions, have been presenting in recent days and the number of flu cases has also begun to rise.

UL Hospitals Group is working closely with HSE Mid West Community Healthcare through the Mid West Winter Action Team to meet increased demand for services in the acute and community settings, a spokesman said.

There were 1,343 attendances in the seven-day period from December 31 to January 6.

Professor Cowan said the hospital is currently operating at capacity and all available surge capacity is in use.

“Initiatives introduced under the winter plan – such as expanding our Acute Medical Assessment Unit and increasing access to diagnostics in the evenings – have assisted in terms of patient flow. Additional lists for emergency surgery have proven to be of great benefit as there was a significant number of trauma presentations over the Christmas/New Year period.

“We are currently seeing a high number of frail elderly patients with complex medical needs who require admission. Respiratory conditions and flu are on the increase and people attending the Emergency Department can regrettably expect long waits in many instances as the sickest patients are prioritised”.

She said it was encouraging to see the overall increase in attendances at the injury units this year “as they are the best option for appropriate cases. However, people who are seriously injured or ill should continue to come to the Emergency Department, where they will receive the appropriate care.

Prof Cowan also encouraged members of the public to get the flu vaccination from their GP or pharmacist.

“Over the last month, there have been over 30 patients with influenza admitted across UL Hospitals Group, with a number of patients seriously unwell. The vaccine this year is a good match for the circulating strains, including H1N1, and we are encouraging members of the public to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting the vaccine,” she said.