Limerick hospital restrictions extended for another week

University of Limerick Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan

REDUCTIONS in scheduled care across the University of Limerick Hospitals Group (ULHG) have been extended for a further week as high levels of Covid-19 related staff absences mean emergency and time-critical care must be prioritised.

The UL Hospitals Crisis Management Team this Friday confirmed the deferral of the majority of scheduled surgery and outpatient appointments across the group from Monday, January 10 until Friday, January 14. This includes University Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, St John’s Hospital, and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.

While services at University Maternity Hospital Limerick are unaffected, an outbreak of Covid-19 and high levels of community transmission mean the temporary restrictions on access to inpatient wards for nominated support partners remain in place. Access for nominated support partners to inpatient wards at UMHL is limited to one two-hour slot per day between the hours of 2pm and 8pm.

Patients directly affected are being contacted directly by UL Hospitals Group and their procedures will be rescheduled at the earliest opportunity.

A ULHG spokesman said that staff absences continue to rise as a result of the current surge in Covid-19 and this is having an adverse impact on service delivery.

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This Friday, 675 staff (whole-time equivalents) or approximately 13 per cent of the workforce were unavailable for work for reasons relating to Covid-19. This includes staff who are positive, closes contacts, those restricting movements or self-isolating in line with the public health guidelines, vulnerable healthcare workers etc.

Contact tracing and testing of staff and patients are continuing and appropriate infection control measures have been put in place to mitigate the risk.

Emergency and trauma theatre continues to operate and time-critical outpatient appointments are also being accommodated both face-to-face and virtually. The curtailment of services is being kept under continuous review.

Services which continue include Dialysis (UHL); Acute Fracture Clinic (UHL); Cancer services (oncology and haematology day ward; haematology and oncology OPD clinics; medical oncology clinics; rapid access clinics); Other outpatient clinics: Time-critical only following clinical decision, with patients being contacted in advance; Paediatric clinics; Ante-natal clinic; colposcopy clinic; diabetes in pregnancy clinic; elective c-sections and induction of labour (UMHL)

UL Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan, said: “As in recent years, we had planned to reduce scheduled surgery at UHL for the first two weeks in January in order to better manage the anticipated surge in emergency presentations. This year, due to the surge in Covid-19 cases and the high levels of absence due to Covid-19, we have in addition had to reduce scheduled care across all our sites.

“Staff have been redeployed to keep essential services running this week at UHL and at UMHL. Through redeployment and overtime, our staff have again responded with professionalism and dedication to ensure we can continue to provide care to our sickest patients through this challenging period,” Professor Cowan added.