Nenagh Hospital: UHL has begun to resume services on a gradual basis

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Nenagh Hospital: UHL has begun to resume services on a gradual basisHospital patients are asked for care feedback

Nenagh Hospital: UHL has begun to resume services on a gradual basis

UL Hospitals Group, which includes Nenagh Hospital, is gradually resuming services across its six sites and patients are being advised of precautionary measures to take in advance of and during their time in hospital in the context of the ongoing public health emergency.

As part of their pandemic response, UHL Group took the decision on March 6 to defer almost all elective activity, including inpatient and day case surgery and outpatient appointments. Emergency and time-critical services were protected throughout the pandemic and the group commenced virtual clinics in many specialties for outpatients.

While virtual clinics will remain a significant feature for the duration of the pandemic, many patients require a face-to-face consultation or a physical examination or investigation. Its outpatient clinics are now gradually increasing the number of patients attending in person across the group.

Scheduled surgery as well as endoscopy and other diagnostic investigations have also recommenced in Nenagh, UHL, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, St John’s Hospital, Ennis Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.

"We are carefully scaling up these services in line with the national public health guidance and in a manner which optimises patient care while minimising risks to patients, staff and the wider healthcare system. In line with IP&C best practice and the new realities around physical distancing, this will mean fewer patients in waiting rooms and in clinical areas at any one time and fewer patients on theatre lists on any one day," said a group spokesperson.

In advance of attending for an appointment or being admitted for a planned procedure, patients are being asked to take a number of measures in advance of or during their time in hospital.

These include:

- patients may be asked to cocoon or to self-isolate in advance of their procedure or appointment

-  patients make be asked to consent to a Covid-19 test in advance of a planned admission

- patients may be asked to wear a face mask/other PPE or to change the face mask/face covering they are wearing on arrival

- patients may be asked to complete a Covid-19 questionnaire over the phone in advance of coming to hospital and to repeat same on arrival. Patients with symptoms of Covid-19 will be asked to stay home

- patients may be asked to attend at less social hours to facilitate extended operating hours of services

- patients or those accompanying them may be asked to wait in their car until closer to their appointment time

- patients may be asked to attend another hospital for their procedure/appointment

In all cases, patients will be contacted in advance by letter, by phone or by text and patients asked not to attend unless they have recently heard directly from the hospital.

"We ask that in the case of children attending for a procedure or appointment, they are accompanied by one adult only and that no siblings may attend. In the case of day surgery, persons accompanying the patient will not be permitted to wait in the hospital and will be asked to return once the patient has recovered," said the spokesperson.

The increase in activity coincides with Phase 3 in the Government roadmap on the reopening of society. However, the visiting ban remains in place across our six hospitals, but the group has stared work on how visiting restrictions can be eased pending national guidance.

Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said: “We are very pleased that patients are again coming in for their appointments and for their procedures. During the pandemic, we have kept our emergency services open; we have re-imagined the physical environment; and we have adopted new ways of working so that by the second month of lockdown, we were back up to 50% of our usual outpatient activity, almost three in five of those appointments being completed virtually. Our theatre staff redeployed to support critical care and are now returning to their substantive posts as we scale up planned surgery.”

She said that they were also asking patients to do things differently, as, for the foreseeable future, they will need to reduce footfall in their hospitals and see fewer patients physically in clinics and in theatre.

"We are also asking patients to consider all their care options - Injury Units, GP and GP out-of hours - before presenting to the Emergency Department and to use the phone where possible," she said.