GREATER access to community care and 13 extra doctors in the emergency department are part of the plan for University Hospital Limerick to cope with an increased number of patients over the winter months.
An emergency plan has also been drawn up in case of any significant surge in Covid cases.
HSE Mid West Community Healthcare and UL Hospitals Group have outlined the actions that will be taken to support local health services over the coming months, as part of their joint Winter Plan.
The plan includes the ongoing delivery of additional acute and community beds and increasing staffing capacity.
Alternative patient pathways will be implemented during the winter period to help reduce the number of people who have to go to the hospital emergency department, while flu and Covid 19 vaccination programmes will continue.
Family doctors will have direct access to diagnostic measures such as x-rays and scans. Measures aimed at supporting older people, who are particularly vulnerable at this time of year, have been put in place.
The Integrated Care Programme for Older Persons (ICPOP) is a service that provides rapid access to a multidisciplinary delivered Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) for older adults who have frailty or are developing frailty.
Appointments are offered within a week of the referral being received and there is no waiting list.
This year’s Winter Plan also prioritises investment to support the expansion of Community Intervention Teams (CIT) which focus on hospital avoidance and early supported discharge to the person’s home.
UL Hospitals Group has recruited 25 extra staff and opened the new Geriatric Emergency Medicine unit at UHL as well as expanding the hospital’s assessment and intervention service for over-75s.
The group is also concentrating on discharging patients as efficiently as possible by recruiting four extra discharge coordinators, four radiographers and a Clinical Nurse Manager who will specifically target discharges at weekends.
There will also be 11 new doctors and two emergency medicine consultants to help speed up the care and admission process in the emergency department.
UL Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan said that the year to date has been one of the busiest ever, with record numbers of attendances at the emergency department and high numbers of elderly people with very complex conditions.
“We hope the Winter Plan’s focus on patient flow and recruitment will help provide safe and effective healthcare alternatives to the busy emergency department,” she added.