PROFESSOR Colette Cowan has been re-appointed for another five years as chief executive of the University of Limerick Hospitals Group which incorporates University Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Croom, Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s hospitals.
Since taking on the role in 2014, she has overseen a budget increase from €267 million to €351 million and a workforce rise from 3,000 to 4,200.
Referring to the challenge of leading the thousands of hospital staff in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary over the next five years, Prof Cowan said the Group was looking forward to the development of the six regions announced by Health Minister Simon Harris as a key driver in delivering the Slaintecare health reforms.
“The creation of integrated health regions present great challenges and great opportunities that we must all strive to meet as the promise of Slaintecare is to deliver truly transformative change for the people of the MidWest and the country at large.
She said that while Slaintecare envisaged a move away from Ireland’s hospital-centric model to delivering more care in primary and community settings, the UL Hospitals Group would be busier than ever over the next five years, advancing its strategic objectives and developing more specialist services.
“We were only just emerging from a deep recession when I was appointed as chief executive in 2014. The MidWest had been more seriously affected than other regions and the difficulties in the public finances had a serious adverse impact on the delivery of health services.
“Over the last five years, however, UL Hospitals Group has delivered more care to more patients at a rate greater than the population increase in general.
“For example, the number of attendances at our Emergency Department/Injury Units increased from 85,816 to 103,063 over the last five years and the number in-centre dialysis treatments in UHL grew from 10,412 to 17,232.
“In spite of the challenging environment, the Group continues to increase its clinical activity, grow its workforce, enhance its academic profile and achieve crucial targets in quality and patient safety,”
“We are also keenly aware that our capacity to meet demand is lacking in key areas and this is most manifest in the long waits for a bed faced by admitted patients and in growing outpatient waiting lists. Patient experience in these areas has been poor for many and I remain absolutely committed to improving this.”
PROFESSOR Cowan said her current priorities for the UL Hospitals Group included:
– The implementation of Sláintecare in the MidWest
– The development of a Health Science Academy jointly with the University of Limerick
– Completion of the 60-bed block currently under construction at UHL and progression of the separate 96-bed block included in Project Ireland 2040
– Planning the relocation of the University Maternity Hospital Limerick to the UHL campus
– New outpatient accommodation in Ennis Hospital to facilitate expansion of clinics
– Progression of plans for new theatres at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital
– Extension and further development of the Children’s Ark UHL in line with the National Paediatric Model of Care
– Enhanced diagnostics for UHL through the Blood Sciences Project and the acquisition of a second MRI scanner
– Continued focus on the growth of UL Hospitals Group as a major centre for cancer care, robotics, ageing and therapeutics, paediatrics and specialist services outside of the Dublin region
– Continued positive engagement with all stakeholders including trade unions and public representatives
– Continued development and recognition of staff with greater access to education, training and leadership opportunities
– Continued planning to bring forward a charter for change to include community-based care, age-friendly services and regeneration
– Continued work with Limerick Chamber and industry partners to bring forward digital innovations in the MidWest region
“Significant capital projects delivered over the last five years include the new Emergency Department, Leben Building (CF, breast, stroke and dermatology services), Dialysis Unit, Clinical Education and Research Centre at UHL; improved end-of-life care facilities in Ennis Hospital and University Maternity Hospital Limerick and the new ward block and Cataract Theatre at Nenagh Hospital.
“More specialist clinics than ever before are being led in Ennis and Nenagh hospitals by consultants and an increasing number of advanced nurse and midwifery practitioners. And UL Hospitals Group was delighted to form its first Patient Council to give patients an active voice in service planning and delivery.
“Over the last five years, UL Hospitals Group has consistently met or exceeded the national targets for average length of stay, day of surgery adUniversitymissions and readmission rates. Key quality indicators have shown excellent results in perinatal care and for in-hospital mortality rates for heart attack and stroke,” Prof Cowen concluded.