Limerick hospital staff on high alert for respiratory illnesses

ALL six hospitals in the University of Limerick Hospitals Group are operating above capacity and staff are on high alert for an expected surge of patients with respiratory illnesses.

A spokesman for the hospitals group also revealed that management at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) had stood down a “major internal incident” which it declared on January 2 due to “unsustainable” patient overcrowding at its emergency department.

“All our hospitals are operating above capacity and staff remain on high alert amid a surge of respiratory infection in the community that has not yet reached its peak,” he said.

“Regional data shows that the surge in respiratory illness has not yet peaked. This week HSE Public Health Mid-West reported almost 300 cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in the past four weeks, with a noticeable increase in adult infections.”

“Public Health also reported 968 cases of influenza in the region since December 11, a level of flu not experienced in the Mid West for many years, and Covid infections are also increasing.”

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The UL Hospitals Group operates four sites in Limerick, including UHL, St John’s Hospital, Croom Orthopaedic, and University Maternity Hospital Limerick, as well as Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals.

As part of a review of actions to offset overcrowding at UHL, the group said it had introduced a “temporary measure” whereby Medical Assessment Units (MAUs) at St John’s and Nenagh hospitals have moved from a five to a seven-day week to allow for additional GP referrals.

Patients cannot be seen at the MAUs without a referral.

The spokesman said that although the “major internal incident” was stood down, significant reductions in scheduled care are to remain in force across the hospitals group.

Day surgery at Ennis, Nenagh, and St John’s hospitals remain cancelled until the end of this week and only emergency and trauma surgery is taking place at UHL this week, while Croom Orthopaedic Hospital was accepting UHL medical patients as well as additional patients for trauma surgery.

“Reductions in elective surgery at UHL and at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital remain in force, and all patients affected by cancellations are being contacted directly by staff.”

Outpatient appointments were going ahead as scheduled on all sites this week.