THE first phase of a two-stage project to extend the neonatal intensive care unit at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) and refurbish the department’s existing facilities will be completed in the coming weeks.
Phase one has involved building a two-storey extension to accommodate staff and parents’ facilities currently located in the existing neonatal unit. This will enable the refurbishment and expansion of cot spaces, which will be undertaken in the second phase of the project.
The new structure, on the Ennis Road, will house accommodation for parents, a lactation centre to support breastfeeding and a clinical engineering unit. It will also include support facilities for neonatal nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, and secretarial teams.
It is envisaged that the extension will also house dedicated areas for clinical teaching and research.
Along with the development of cot spaces in the intensive care, high dependency and isolation areas, the second phase of the project will involve the provision of two family-centred care rooms.
The project’s Clinical Lead, consultant neonatologist Prof Roy K Philip, welcomed the imminent completion of the first phase.
“UMHL is more than six decades old, and as time has gone by, the spatial and infrastructural limitations of the hospital have often presented challenges to the delivery of safe, high quality care for the most premature and critically ill newborn infants,” he said.
“We are following a blended design concept and we are confident of developing one of the best neonatal units in the country,” Prof Philip added.
UMHL was opened in 1960, and at the time it was envisaged that the hospital would manage around 3,000 births a year. In recent years, there have been more than 4,200 deliveries a year, In addition to the capacity issue, pregnancy and childbirth has become increasingly complex.
The neonatal refurbishment project is one of a number of initiatives being undertaken to improve services at UMHL, before its eventual relocation from the Ennis Road to the University Hospital Limerick (UHL) campus in Dooradoyle.
There is a commitment to the relocation project in Project Ireland 2040 and while there is no specific target date for its completion, it is anticipated that it will take seven to ten years to deliver.