A UNIQUE collaboration between University of Limerick and UL Hospitals Group has led to the opening of an Intermediate Care Facility on the grounds of the UL campus.
The UL Hospitals Group Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) located in the UL Sport Arena was opened today, Monday, by UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald and Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group.
The ICF is a fully staffed and fully equipped Model One hospital facility that will provide care for non-Covid patients who are fit for discharge from any of the acute hospitals in UL Hospitals Group, but who would benefit from further rehabilitation, or may be waiting to go into long term care.
Open to accept patients from today, the 68-bed facility, with capacity to scale up to 84 beds, is laid out in partitioned wards, and is fitted out with a typical ward support accommodation such as clean and dirty utilities, pharmacy, pantry, staff change, clinical treatment areas, two recreation areas, and four enclosed rooms.
Staffed by all grades, and expected to be in place until at least September with an option to extend until November, the ICF will be an invaluable interim means for hospital care management. UL Hospitals Group is working with community and national colleagues to increase both intermediate care and permanent acute hospital bed capacity for the region before the end of the year.
The ICF has grown out of the closely collaborative relationship between UL Hospitals Group and its academic partner, the University of Limerick. It has been developed as a contingency facility, and a solution to the patient flow and crowding challenges experienced in the region’s hospitals during the pandemic.
UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald, who first mooted the idea of a field hospital on the UL campus, said: “Limerick and our surrounding hinterland has fared relatively well in terms of a low number of confirmed cases and this is due in no small measure to a very strong regional partnership approach.
“Public and private organisations came together to support our hospital and care facilities across this region. It is this partnership approach that has also led to the establishment of the Mid-West Institute for Infectious Diseases at UL, which will serve our community in the short and long term against this and future pandemics.
Dr Fitzgerald added: “Unfortunately we are not going to be in a position to use our Arena facility in the way in which we normally would during Semester 1 of our next academic year. Repurposing the Arena as a care facility allows UL to remain at the centre of our region’s response to this pandemic.
“The ICF will provide a unique opportunity for training of UL healthcare students and has significant potential for research for the University. It is likely that there will be patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and this would be the ideal situation to observe their continued recovery from a disease with largely unknown long-term consequences,” he said.
Speaking ahead of the arrival of the first patients to the facility this Monday, Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group said she was honoured to be present for the opening of the facility on the campus of UL Hospitals Group’s academic partner.
“Our relationship with UL is important in improving standards of care in the region, as well as fostering education, clinical research and innovation.
“The Interim Care Facility will be a vital strategic element in UL Hospitals Group’s efforts to manage patient flow at a time when there is such significant demand for our services,” Ms Cowan explained.
“Area Crisis Management Teams have devised Intermediate Care Plans in the event of a resurgence of COVID-19. This is especially relevant in the Mid-West where baseline bed capacity is lower and there is limited private hospital capacity. We are working with community colleagues on further increasing intermediate care once we vacate the UL Arena. In addition, there are four new-build projects within our Group that will deliver up to 122 new beds for the region. The 60-bed block at UHL is due for completion before the end of 2020, while two single-room en-suite blocks (one 24-bed, and one 14-bed) are scheduled for completion at the UHL site by the late summer. A separate 24-bed single-room en-suite block is being built at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital, and that too is due to be completed by the end of the summer.”
Professor Paul Burke, Chief Academic Officer at UL Hospitals Group and Vice Dean of Health Sciences at UL, who was executive lead on the ICF project, said: “This facility will mean that the people of our region can rest assured that contingency capacity is now in place to support UL Hospitals Group, either in the case of the general capacity issues or indeed in the case of a second surge of COVID-19.”
He continued: “It has been heartening to see the tremendous ‘shoulder to the wheel’ attitude and spirit of staff both at the University and within the Hospital Group to get this facility in place. UL nursing, midwifery, paramedic, intellectual disability and medical students working as Health Care Assistants (HCAs), as well as some full-time allied health professional staff and students, will form part of the care team at the ICF.”
“These staff will work with our highly experienced teams of nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and support staff from the acute hospitals, enabling patients to fully rehabilitate so that they can be discharged home whenever possible,” Professor Burke added.
Fiona Steed, Group Lead, Allied Health, UL Hospitals, said: “A significant number of Health & Social Care Professionals will be on site in the ICF, so patients will benefit from a complete, multi-disciplinary approach to their ongoing treatment needs, from occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, medical social workers and dietitians. We are also fortunate that from Week 2, we will be able to accommodate students from UL in the areas of speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and dietetics. The means that patient experience in the ICF will be enhanced, and the facility will also support the learning needs of our students.”
The UL Hospitals Group Intermediate Care Facility is headed by Clinical Lead, Professor Mike Watts (Clinical Lead of Unscheduled Care, UL Hospitals Group). Nursing lead at the facility is Yvonne Young (Group Assistant Director Of Nursing, UL Hospitals), and the Allied Health Professionals lead is Fiona Steed (Group Lead, Allied Health, UL Hospitals). The UL Hospitals Group Project Manager was Breda Duggan.
The physical works were planned and completed under the management of HSE Estates.
“UL Arena sports facility had been transformed within a four-week time-frame,” explained HSE Estates Manager Clodagh Hanratty.
“This has been an intensive collaboration, involving UL’s Building and Estates Department, the HSE Estates Department locally and nationally, contractors and suppliers, Limerick City and County Council, and, from the Defence Forces, personnel from 1 Brigade Engineer Group, Collins Barracks, Cork, and 12 Infantry Battalion, Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick,” Ms Hanratty said.