Almost 100 Mid West hospital staff sidelined by Covid

University Hospital Limerick

by David Raleigh

[email protected]

WITH only one intensive care bed available in the entire Mid West, it has been confirmed that almost 100 staff working for the UL Hospitals Group are off work because of Covid-19 related issues.

A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group, which operates six sites, including four hospitals in Limerick, said 71 of its staff were sidelined due to a number of “Covid-positive cases, staff who are symptomatic and staying at home, and those awaiting results of Covid-19 swab tests”, and that an additional 27 staff “who are vulnerable to Covid-19 and, for their own safety, must remain off-site for now”.

The spokesperson said that “Covid-19 activity” in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) – the only hospital with a 24-hour emergency department in the region – “remains high”.

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It is also managing overcrowding at UHL with 154 patients languishing on trolleys there over the past 24-48 hours.

Latest statistics published by the HSE showed that 38 UHL patients were receiving treatment for Covid-19 – the highest number in any hospital outside of the Dublin region – and eight of those were receiving critical care.

A further 20 patients at the hospital who were suspected of being infected with Covid-19 were awaiting test results.

The Limerick hospital is “continuing to manage a Covid outbreak that has affected five inpatient wards and resulted in a hospital-wide visiting ban” and has employed measures to mitigate against overcrowding and pressures on bed capacity, said the spokesperson.

There were only four general beds and one ICU/HDU bed available at the hospital, according to the HSE.

There continues to be a “significant” volume of patients attending UHL’s emergency department (ED) where presentations surged to 242 on Wednesday, compared to pre-Covid daily attendances of 195.

A spokesperson said UHL management has implemented an “escalation plan” to try to mitigate the pressure on the hospital, by introducing “surge capacity, undertaking additional ward rounds, accelerating patient discharges and identifying patients for transfer to our Model 2 hospitals”.

However, the spokesperson said the “current demand for our services is multi-faceted and high numbers of admitted patients require a level of care that, for the Mid West, can only be provided at UHL”.

He said patients were presenting “sicker and with more complicated conditions, requiring longer inpatient stays to recover”.

The spokesperson urged the public to avoid the Limerick Emergency Department unless they were “seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk”.

He added that people who were not in need of emergency care to consider alternative services such as their local GP, or local injury unit which are operating seven days a week “for the treatment of broken bones, discolorations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns”.

“We apologise to any patient who has experienced a long wait for admission to UHL during this period of exceptionally high demand for our services,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Health Mid West said it was struggling to visualise a full picture of the spread of the virus due to increased demands on surveillance staff and contract tracers, following a surge in cases across the region.

The department’s Mid West director, Dr Mai Mannix, urged people to “limit their social activity and social contacts” to help reduce the spread of the virus in anticipation of a “likely greater number of people with Covid-19” presenting for treatment in hospitals for the effects of the virus.

Dr Mannix warned that the department was “seeing a trend of some workplaces dropping their guard in terms of mask-wearing, which is high-risk when Covid-19 is circulating widely in the community”.