Injury units will play “vital role” in easing pressures on hospitals braced for surge of COVID-19 patients

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University Hospital Limerick

MEDICAL injury units are to play a “vital role” in alleviating pressures on hospitals braced for an expected surge of covid-19 patients.

The UL Hospitals Group, which manages six hospitals across Limerick, Clare and Tipperary, said injury units in the region would be vitally important “in UL Hospitals Group’s ring-fencing of the Emergency Department (ED) at University Hospital Limerick (UL) for treatment of Covid-19 cases and other seriously ill patients during the ongoing public health emergency”.

According to analysis of positive cases of Covid-19 as at midnight, Saturday, 21 March, there were 47 patients who had tested positive for the disease in the mid-west region, including Limerick (18); Clare (9); and Tipperary (20).

A spokesman for the hospital Group said a “de-escalation of the region’s main acute hospital continues in anticipation of the Covid-19 surge”.

“All patients with minor injuries—such as suspected broken bones, cuts, bruises, sprains and strains—will be redirected to the Injury Units in Nenagh, Ennis and St John’s for treatment.”

— Opening times extended —

“To support this redirection of minor injury work, the injury unit at St John’s Hospital, Limerick, is moving from five-day to seven-day opening. From this weekend, Saturday March 28th, the facility will open from 8am to 7pm on weekends. And with effect from this Wednesday, March 25th, the unit’s weekday opening hours will also extend, with the facility open until 7pm every day.”

Dr Gareth Quin, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at UHL and St John’s Hospital Injury Unit, encouraged patients with minor injuries to attend local injury units.

“Our teams of highly experienced doctors, Advanced Nurse Practitioners and nurses, radiographers and physiotherapists, can deliver expert care and treatment for a wide range of injuries including broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns,” Dr Quin added.

The Group spokesman explained, however patients with minor injuries who feel they are also displaying the symptoms of coronavirus infection should continue to present at the Emergency Department in UHL.

Dr Quin explained: “We anticipate that the Emergency Department will become extremely busy with coronavirus patients and, to reduce demand on the ED, we will redirect patients with minor injuries to St John’s, Ennis and Nenagh, where our well-established Injury Units provide an excellent service to patients with minor injuries.”

Outside the Injury Units’ opening hours, patients with minor injuries may defer care to the next day, or attend UHL, where they will be seen and treated in a part of the hospital outside of the Emergency Department.

All query Covid-19 patients will be managed in the ED at UHL – However, the ED will not be providing a swabbing service.

The only patients being swabbed in the Emergency Department will be those sick enough to require hospital admission, the Group spokesman said.

Dr Quin said patients with heart attacks, strokes and other serious illnesses and injuries would continue to be treated in the Limerick ED.

Dr Quin added: “The last few weeks have seen enormous levels of planning and preparation for the anticipated surge in Covid-19 related illnesses, and we all stand ready to provide every patient who needs our service with the best care possible.”

The Group spokesman said that approximately one in three of all emergency presentations across UL Hospitals Group take place within Injury Units, which have “enjoyed consistently positive feedback from the patients they treat”.

There is no charge for patients with full medical cards or patients with a valid medical/GP referral letter, they added.

The Injury Unit at St John’s Hospital can be contacted on 061-462303. The Injury Unit at Nenagh Hospital is open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, and can be contacted on 067-42311. The Injury Unit at Ennis Hospital is open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, and can be contacted on 065-6863121. For further information, visit www.hse.ie/injuryunits for further information.