Sports Arena playing major role in Covid battle

Cleaners prepare the Intermediate Care Facility at University of Limerick. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

A SECOND wave of Covid-19 along with traditional winter flu cases will put severe strain on University Hospital Limerick (UHL) before the end of the year.

However a €1 million, 68-bed step down hospital, built inside the University of Limerick Sports Arena, is easing the strain on bed capacity throughout the UL Hospitals Group over the past month.

The Interim Care Facility (ICF), which has capacity to scale up to 84 beds, is expected to be in place until September, with an option to extend until November.

It is laid out in partitioned wards where non-Covid patients are nursed back to full health before being discharged home, or to a nursing home/community health setting.

“Numbers of patients at the ICF have increased steadily, and staffing has grown in line with this increase. As of this week, a total of 50 patients have benefited from rehabilitation at the ICF to date, and there are currently 31 patients being cared for in the facility,” a UL Hospitals Group spokesman  told the Limerick Post.

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He did not have information on the number of patients admitted to the ICF who had previously tested positive for Covid-19.

One of those who fought an 81-day battle against the deadly virus and who was benefiting from her post-covid care at the ICF was Rose Mannion, (66), from Lorrha in North Tipperary.

The 66-year old freelance photographer appeared on a Twitter video high-fiving staff who had saved her life as she was wheeled out of Portiuncula Hospital on her way to the ICF for rehab.

“There is no better #FridayFeeling than this. We’re so grateful to the health care staff for the fantastic care mam received. They truly are #HealthcareHeroes #legends,” Ms Mannion’s son, Ruadhan tweeted.

Dromcollogher native Tom Noonan, (75), was one of the first patients to be transferred to the ICF.

Arriving there on June 12, just four days after the facility opened, he was initially puzzled at the novel healthcare setting.

“When I arrived, I noticed the basketballs and sports equipment, and then I saw all the nurses and staff, and I thought to myself, ‘Where am I at now?’ I didn’t know what to expect when I was coming here, but I’ll tell you this, I couldn’t have come to a better place,” he said.

The County Limerick man, who suffers from a number of conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), had initially been admitted to UHL with a gangrenous toe.

Visitors are prohibited, in line with a ban imposed at UL Hospitals last March, but patients can make video calls to family and friends.

“They’re so good for helping me with that. It’s typical of the care you get in the place. Honest to God now, I’ve never in my life had care the like of what I’ve received here,” he went on.

Senior Speech and Language Therapist Joanne Mannion, explained the approach at ICF is both “holistic and patient centred”, and aimed at improving “the patient’s sense of wellbeing”.

Josephine O’Shea, Oola, marked her 91st birthday in the ICF after suffering a fall at home on her kitchen floor, sustaining painful bruising on her side and back.

“With all the rest and exercise I’ve had, I feel so much stronger now.”

“All the staff are wonderful, kind, and very reassuring, and they’ve given me the confidence I need to go home,” she said.

After celebrating with cake and candles presented to her by staff, she added: “I’m not giving up now, I’m going to go for the hundred!”