1,444 outpatients appointments were cancelled while the University Hospital Limerick (UHL) battled to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control. Ennis, which was also under pressure with detected cases and staff having to isolate had to cancel 194 appointments, the Limerick Post was told.
The hospitals now plan to use virtual clinics and outsourcing to private hospitals to try to provide appointments for parents who had to be cancelled.
The recent outbreaks of Covid-19 at UHL and Ennis led both hospitals to have to suspend the considerable number of outpatient appointments, from Thursday, November 12 to Monday, November 23.
During the outbreaks, six wards in UHL and one in Ennis were closed to admissions, and on Monday, November 16, there were 221 staff absent across the Group (mostly from UHL).
That figure included staff who tested positive for Covid through community or workplace transmission; close contacts of positive cases and staff who were showing symptoms and stayed off work.
A hospital spokesman said that “suspending scheduled services is one of the most difficult decisions a hospital can take, due to the impact on patients and their families, especially those patients who have had a lengthy wait for an outpatient appointment or procedure.
“However, it was necessary in this instance, in order to protect patients and staff on our sites from COVID-19, and ensure that services could be delivered safely.
“The subsequent reduction in staff absences and their return to work at UHL and Ennis enabled the Hospital Crisis Management Team to direct that outpatient appointments and elective activity would resume at both hospitals from Tuesday, November 24.
“The reintroduction of services cancelled during the first wave of the pandemic has been one of the most considerable challenges ever faced in our hospitals, requiring a constant balancing of patients’ clinical needs against the need to protect all patients and staff from the risk of Covid.
“These guidelines mean that there will be fewer patients in waiting rooms and clinical areas at any one time, and fewer patients on theatre lists. We will continue to prioritise the sickest patients for treatment, in line with national guidelines, and with the agreement of our clinical leads.