7-day opening of Mid-West hospitals’ Medical Assessment Units from this weekend

University Hospital Limerick

ALL of the Medical Assessment Units (MAUS) in the UL Hospitals Group will be open seven days a week from this weekend, following an allocation of a multi-million euro funding package that will extend the operational hours of MAUs in St John’s and Nenagh Hospitals.  

The move, announced on Thursday, will mean thousands more available slots for GPs to send patients for assessment rather than having them go through the very busy emergency department (ED) at UHL.

The HSE’s National Acute Division has approved the Group’s application for €5.2m to provide the necessary staffing resources at St John’s and Nenagh hospitals from this weekend, also securing the already extended weekend service at Ennis MAU into the future.

Recruitment has been ongoing for more than 50 extra staff across a number of specialties for the MAU services, including medical doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, health and social care professionals, and administrative staff.

A statement from UL Hospitals Group (ULHG) noted that “MAUs are not a walk-in service” and that referrals to the newly bolstered services should be via a GP. 

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“The extended opening hours, with all three units open seven days a week, will create an additional total of 7,176 patient slots per annum across the three sites, significantly enhancing the acute medical healthcare referral alternatives available to GPs over the weekends,” the statement continued.

This investment will provide further support for the recently introduced ‘999 Ambulance Protocol’ service for appropriate medical patients in the MAUs at Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals.”

Dr Bruce O’Donnell, an Ennis-based General Practitioner, said: “General Practitioners in the Mid West are delighted at this announcement to increase services and availability at the Medical Assessment Units across the region.”

“The MAUs provide a valuable, vital and timely service to GPs and patients, and have done for many years.

“This move will have a very positive impact for all stakeholders in the Midwest and help alleviate the pressures on our colleagues in the emergency department and UHL.”

In 2022, more than 12,737 patients were referred to the MAUs across the three hospitals, which have played an integral role in ED avoidance, patient flow to Model 2 hospitals, and appropriate community referrals.

CEO of UL Hospitals Group Prof Colette Cowan said she was “delighted” that the work to expand the opening hours in the MAU can now proceed.

“I’m grateful to the new HSE Chief Executive, Bernard Gloster, for his support for our funding application to expand the MAU services in our Model 2 hospitals here in the Mid West.”

“Weekend opening of all three MAUs will greatly assist hospital management and our GP colleagues to avoid unnecessary attendances at ED and admission to UHL.

“The regional’s main acute hospital, serving the population of Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary, continues to experience an exceptionally high level of demand for emergency care and inpatient beds at present. In that context, the €5.2m investment will greatly enhance an already invaluable service for UL Hospitals Group,” Prof Cowan added.

UHL remained the most overcrowded hospital in the country throughout the week, with 111 patients on Thursday waiting on trolleys in the ED and on wards elsewhere for valuable in-hospital bedspace.