Forty new hospital beds in Clonmel provided Covid lifeline

Eamon Lacey

Reporter:

Eamon Lacey

Email:

elacey@nationalist.ie

They were a long, long time in materialising but the timing could not have been better with 40 new beds coming on stream at South Tipperary General Hospital to coincide with the arrival of Covid-19.
The initial 20 beds in the new modular build opened in early March and the other 20 beds that were opened very quickly after handed STGH a purpose built isolation unit ready made for dealing with infectious disease and critical care enabling them to battle the challenges set by the coronavirus crisis.
Four of those forty beds were designated as a 24/7 respiratory unit and the remaining thirty six beds were designated for Covid patients.
The arrival of the single suite forty rooms provided a significant boost to the hospital which prior to that had just 17 single rooms suitable for isolation.
Almost overnight that went up to 57 which greatly enhanced the capability of STGH to put in place the structure required to handle Covid-19.
The hospital had five ICU beds to call on and the re-location of a coronary unit allowed the hospital to increase the number of patients the hospital could provide ventilation for from seven to twenty one.
New structures were put in place, staff re-deployed and spaces re-designated and staff education and training went into overdrive in the weeks leading up to the arrival of the first patient.
One fatality occurred in the hospital early on in the crisis.
A total of 35 people were hospitalised with Covid as were seven staff bringing the total to 42.
The majority of the over 600 people who were seen in the assessment unit and those that were tested positive were sent home on instructions to self isolate.
“They availed of support calls from the hospital to monitor how they were doing once they were at home.
“We started preparing in January and then in February and early March it was clear that there was going to be a pandemic.
“We put a crisis management team in place and we met every day,” said hospital manager, Maria Barry.
At the start of March, STGH was full to capacity with 168 patients and twenty on overflow and a process of discharging as many as possible was pursued.
The first Covid positive diagnosis at the hospital was made on March 19.
Huge challenges arose during the Covid at the hospital regarding maintenance of numbers working.
Of the 900 hospital staff up to 130 were sent home to self- isolate.
“Eleven staff were caught abroad when it broke.
“People had to come back from the Philippines and Pakistan and self isolate for fourteen days.
“We went about getting agency and retired staff to support the full time staff,” said Mary Burke, deputy manager at the hospital.
Elective surgeries were cancelled at the hospital while critical emergencies continued to be carried out throughout Covid as well as other essential services.
Virtual clinics were held for outpatients with ante natal and fracture clinics held with restricted access during Covid.
“We have been gradually coming back since early June with some outpatients services resuming involving reduced numbers at the clinics.
“We normally would have between 50 and 60 at the outpatients department and now that number is restricted to 23,” said Maria Barry.
She said that everybody in the hospital greatly appreciated the tremendous effort made by so many companies, schools and people in their homes in making PPE, masks and shields and they were all greatly moved by the generosity of the public in delivering food to the hospital.
“The offers of help just kept coming and coming, people were marvellous,” said Maria Barry.
She said the hospital was fortunate to have the forty beds at the right time and she was hoping that thirty new acute hospital beds would be provided at the hospital in September.
Total cases of Covid positive in South Tipperary was 120 on June 19.

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