SIGNIFICANT increases in bed capacity are being provided as part of the winter plan for the University of Limerick Hospitals Group.
The extra beds will be provided alongside the development of a range of integrated community care packages and enhanced home care supports in the joint plan with HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare.
While Covid-19 remains prevalent within the community, the overall investment of almost €36 million aims to improve access to appropriate care at home or close to home, with an emphasis on hospital avoidance.
“At a time when our acute hospitals and community healthcare services face increased pressure due to influenza and other seasonal ailments and trends, the Covid threat has sharpened the focus on the integration of acute hospital and community care,” a spokesman said.
“The Winter Plan works to enhance the capacity of our hospitals and prioritise acute care for the sickest patients, by helping people to find the best, fastest and most appropriate healthcare as close to their homes as possible.”
The allocation of €20 million to the UL Hospitals Group includes investment in staffing for its ongoing expansion of single-room bed capacity, primarily at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
Since the Autumn, UHL has opened 38 beds in new rapid-build bed blocks constructed under the Covid-19 emergency plan, and commenced the phased opening of its new 60-bed block, involving the immediate opening of 20 beds, following by 20 more in December and the final 20 in early January.
The plan also allocates €15.7m to HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare for the delivery of enhanced community services, and prioritising the development of the Integrated Care for Older Persons Programme.
Other community measures include a high quality integrated care programme for people suffering from chronic disease; and the delivery of Community Healthcare Networks.
HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare has been allocated additional resources to support Home Care. This will target greater patient flow and will ensure support for those leaving hospital.
Additional money have been provided to buy aids and appliances to support people at home.
UL Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan said the €20 million investment had allowed them secure staffing for the significant number of modern, high quality hospital beds and other facilities that have been completed this year under the national pandemic emergency plan.
“These beds are a major step forward in addressing our long standing capacity issues, improving the standard of hospital care for patients who need it, especially at a time when sudden surges in Covid pose such a threat to people, specifically to patients and staff in healthcare settings,” she explained
Chief Officer of HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare Maria Bridgeman commented: “While working in an environment with the prevalence of COVID-19, our aim is to provide high quality, safe healthcare to meet the demands of the Mid-West this Winter.
“The focus is on providing this care in a person’s home or as close to home as possible which is welcomed by patients and ensures we play our part in hospital avoidance,” she added.