Cancellation of scheduled care at UL Hospitals Group extended to next Monday, however staff returning to work after period of self-isolation

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University Hospital Limerick

A crisis management team at the UL Hospitals Group has extended curtailments and cancellations of scheduled routine outpatient appointments and elective procedures at University of Limerick and at Ennis Hospital, to next Monday, November 23, as the hospital group continues to deal with outbreaks of Covid-19.

Last Wednesday, some 221 staff, up for 161 the previous week, were absent across the group’s six mid-west based hospitals, due to either having tested positive for COVID-19 or considered close contacts of a positive case.

However, this evening a spokesman for the hospital group said that number of absent staff was “tracking down steadily” and that increased numbers of staff were “returning to work”.

“This is a constantly changing figure, and should be regarded as nothing more or less than a single snapshot in time that may not reflect what the situation is currently. The figure of 221 was for UL Hospitals Group, and was recorded at 8am on Monday morning.

“The level of staff absent across the Group has been tracking down steadily on a daily basis, to the extent that today, Friday, the Group’s Hospital Crisis Management Team has decided to extend service curtailments at UHL and Ennis for just one more day before resuming outpatient services and elective activity at both hospitals next Tuesday morning,” they explained.

It was “anticipated” that outpatient appointments and elective procedures would resume from next Tuesday.

Six wards in UHL remain closed to admissions this evening as a significant number of staff across the Group remained off work and are self isolating.

Outbreak control teams were working closely with public health and occupational health colleagues “to contain the virus and protect all the patients and staff in our hospitals”.

“Contact tracing and testing of staff has been ongoing, and all appropriate infection control measures have been implemented to mitigate the risk,” the spokesman added.

St John’s Hospital, Limerick, Nenagh Hospital, Tipperary, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, in Co Limerick “continue to operate as normal”.

Patients impacted by the curtailments and cancellations were being contacted directly by the hospital group.

The Emergency Department at UHL also continues to operate 24-7 “for emergency cases”, and the Injury Unit and Medical Assessment Unit at Ennis Hospital were also running as normal.

“Patients with any symptoms of Covid-19 are asked not to attend the hospital or any healthcare facility but to phone their GP for advice,” advised the spokesman.

Colette Cowan, chief executive of the UL Hospitals Group, said the curtailments were “regrettable” but “essential” to maintain patient safety and tackle the spread of the virus.

Ms Cowan said the group has been dealing with “a complex situation, involving multiple outbreaks”, but, she offered that, “with significant numbers of our staff who had been off now returning to work, we are glad to be able to resume services again (Tuesday) in a manner that’s safe for all patients and staff, and we are going to work to ensure that patients affected by the curtailments are rescheduled as soon as possible”.

However, Ms Cowan said COVID-19 remained a “very real threat” and that it was “necessary for all of us to remain vigilant and cognisant of the fact that the current levels of community transmission of the coronavirus are higher than we would like them to be”.

Meanwhile, a HSE spokesman this evening confirmed that a Covid-19 drive-through test centre would open in Ballymaley, Co Clare, from next Wednesday November 25th, replacing a testing facility in Cusack Park, Ennis. The Ballymaley facility will include six drive-through lanes and one walk-through lane, and will be able to accommodate up to 700 tests per day.

The following services in the UL Hospitals Group will continue operating as normal next Monday:

– Emergency/trauma theatre
– Cancer and other time-critical surgery
– Cancer Day Ward (chemotherapy and radiotherapy)
– Cancer rapid access clinics (breast, lung, prostate)
– Dermatology melanoma clinic
– Urgent outpatient appointments
– Dialysis
– Palliative care