Treatment of minor injuries need not be a major hassle for the people of North Tipperary and the Mid-West, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Injury Units across UL Hospitals Group, including Nenagh Hospital, open seven days a week for expert treatment of sprains, breaks and minor burns.
The Group’s three Injury Units—at Nenagh Hospital, Ennis Hospital and St John’s Hospital—deliver efficient, expert treatment to tens of thousands of patients with minor injuries every year.
During the pandemic, the Units have also been of crucial assistance in relieving pressure on the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick, which is required for treatment of COVID-19 cases and the most seriously ill non-COVID patients.
Patients attending the Injury Unit in Nenagh benefit from the expertise and care of a consultant-led team of doctors, Registered Advanced Nurse Practitioners (RANPs), nurses, and other healthcare professionals who are highly experienced in the treatment of injuries that may not be threatening to life and limb, but which nonetheless require medical attention and treatment.
The busy Injury Unit at Nenagh Hospital, which serves the population of North Tipperary, processed 8,672 attendances during 2020. This was a 13.5% decrease on the previous year due to the impact of COVID-19 social restrictions. One notable contributor to the decrease was the impact of restrictions on sport and consequent reduction in sports injuries.
However, Deirdre Gleeson, one of three RANPs in the Nenagh Hospital Injury Unit, says there has been an increase in patients who have suffered a range of other minor injuries while at home during the pandemic.
“What we are seeing now is an increase in injuries that people have sustained at home during the cold weather. For instance, there has been an increase in fractures caused by slips, trips and falls. This always arises in January, when people like to get back to exercise after Christmas, but this year, due to the pandemic, it’s different. We’re seeing a lot more people who have slipped and fallen while they’ve gone for a walk to get out of the house for some exercise. We are also seeing a lot of domestic injuries, cuts and lacerations from knives and tools while they’re doing DIY, it’s more of that kind of demographic; injuries that arise around the home,” Deirdre explains.
Deirdre says that for anyone aged five years and over who suffers a minor injury, such as broken bones, dislocations, sprains and minor burns, the first port of call locally should be the Injury Unit in Nenagh Hospital, instead of attending the Emergency Department at UHL. Patients can be referred by a GP or go directly to the unit.
While the world may have changed, Deirdre stresses that one thing has not. Hospitals are safe spaces, and people should not be deterred by the pandemic from attending the Injury Unit if they require medical attention.
She explains: “People should not delay seeking treatment. Our Injury Unit is a safe space, and we encourage people to come here and get treated if they have an injury. Some people are delaying treatment for a number of weeks, and things can get more complex or problematic. Our only stipulations are to wear a mask, and, unless it’s a situation where the patient is elderly and requires assistance, not to bring people with you into the hospital. We have incredibly high infection prevention and control standards throughout the hospital to keep all patients and our staff safe from the threat of COVID-19.”
The Injury Unit in Nenagh Hospital is open 8am-8pm, seven days a week, and Deirdre, with her Advanced Nurse Practitioner colleagues, Patricia McKeown and Martina Treacy, can see patients, and treat, diagnose and discharge them on a daily basis, as well as periodically reviewing those patients who require ongoing attention.
“For more complex treatments, we have a system of review and follow-up in place, including a weekly clinic with the Nenagh Injury Unit lead consultant, Dr Damien Ryan, where we can refer complex cases for opinion,” Deirdre said.
During the pandemic, anyone attending ED in UHL with a minor injury is being re-directed to the nearest Injury Unit. Although the Nenagh team asks the public to be mindful that waiting times may increase in line with numbers attending, the Injury Units in Nenagh, Ennis and St John’s are the fastest and most efficient pathway for minor injuries.
Average turn-around time nationally for seeing and treating patients in Injury Units is 1-2 hours. The Group’s three Injury Units are among 11 of these facilities across the country. All Injury Units provide patients with the same degree of expertise and service as Emergency Departments. For appropriate patients who wish to avoid long waiting times, Injury Units are the best option. The only exceptions are patients with serious head, back and neck injuries, abdominal (stomach) pain, medical illnesses or mental health problems, and children under the age of five years.
“We will also see patients from outside the immediate North Tipperary area,” Deirdre Gleeson explained. “People on the outskirts of Limerick should feel free to attend. In terms of access and parking, Nenagh Hospital would be almost as convenient as St John’s for people living in Castletroy or Annacotty. We are seeing more people from those areas attend. We also have free and plentiful parking, so there is a lot to recommend our unit if you have a minor injury that needs treatment. Our message would be: don’t delay.”
Operational Director of Nursing at Nenagh Hospital, Cathrina Ryan, echoed the words of Deirdre and her colleagues in the unit. “Our Injury Unit treats thousands of patients every year, most of whom are amazed at the efficiency with which they are seen, and the standards of care. This remains the case during the pandemic and at all times. Especially during this most challenging time, I urge anyone who needs treatment for a minor injury not to hesitate coming to us, or to any of the Injury Units in UL Hospitals Group.”
Attendance at the Injury Units in Nenagh Hospital, Ennis Hospital or St John’s Hospital costs €75. There is no charge for patients with full medical cards, or those who have a valid medical/GP referral letter. The Injury Unit at Nenagh Hospital is open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, and can be contacted on 067-42311. The unit at Ennis Hospital (seven days, 8am-8pm) can be contacted on 065-6863121, while the St John’s Hospital unit (seven days, 8am-7pm) can be contacted on 061-462303.
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