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Helping the people of the Mid-West to stay safe and well this winter

The opening of a new MRI service at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) in Mid-December is a major component of the joint UL Hospitals Group (ULHG) and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare Winter Plan for 2019-20, a range of measures aimed at helping people to stay well as close to their homes as possible this winter.

During winter, hospitals and Emergency Departments face intense pressure due to public demand. The Winter Plan sees UL Hospitals and their community colleagues joining forces to help people access the best, fastest and most appropriate healthcare service to meet their needs and stay safe and well this winter.

The Winter Plan has been allocated additional funding of €550,000, to support patient care in UL Hospitals and community health services, and promote campaigns to heighten public awareness on where and how to get the most appropriate care to meet their needs. 

The Midwest Winter Plan is part of the national HSE Winter Plan, which is supported by a budget of €26m, to manage healthcare in acute hospitals and in community settings nationwide during this busy period.

The mid-December ‘go’ date announced for the new MRI service at UHL is a significant and timely complement to the Midwest Winter Plan. Alliance Medical Diagnostic Imaging Ltd was awarded the contract to provide an MRI in a modular building to be sited near the hospital’s radiology department, and the staff to manage the service.

This managed MRI service will be provided initially for two years at a cost of €800,000 per annum, with an option to extend for an additional two years.

The new service will facilitate speedier diagnostics, leading to reduced inpatient wait-times and timely discharges.

UL Hospitals Group can also announce a range of initiatives and other measures, including:

  • Additional staffing in key focus areas including additional Non Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHDs) and Healthcare Assistants
  • Reduction in elective procedures during Christmas and the new year to focus on emergency admissions
  • Additional trauma and emergency surgery lists
  • Focus on reducing the numbers of patients who face delayed transfers of care

HSE Mid West Community Healthcare have also announced a range of additional measures this Winter:

  • Additional home support hours to facilitate early hospital to community transfers
  • Additional aids and appliances to facilitate early hospital discharges and ED avoidance
  • Mobile doctor service/additional triage nurse to support Shannondoc Out of Hours Service to manage increase demand for home visits and facilitate ED avoidance
  • Low-level Domiciliary Rehab team in Limerick city to facilitate early discharge and ED avoidance

Colette Cowan, Chief Executive Officer, UL Hospitals Group, commented: “Winter is a challenging time for acute, community and primary healthcare providers. The integrated plan ensures that the health services across the Midwest work together to improve access for patients to the most appropriate care setting whether that is within their communities or in hospital.”

“We’re also delighted to be able to announce that a second MRI service will be operational at University Hospital Limerick before the end of the year. Alliance Medical is a leading provider of outsourced diagnostic imaging in Ireland and across Europe, and this new managed service will be one of the most significant elements in our Winter Plan for UL Hospitals Group,” Ms Cowan said.

“The Winter Plan will help us to help the public consider all care options available to them, whether at home, in their local pharmacies, their family doctors or out-of-hours GP and other community services, as well as in the injury units in Nenagh, Ennis and St John’s Hospitals. In the weeks and months ahead, people with less severe symptoms should first consider all these options before attending the busy Emergency Department, which prioritises the treatment of seriously ill patients,” she said.

Maria Bridgeman, Mid-West Community Healthcare Chief Officer, commented: “Our focus this winter is to ensure patients are provided with the appropriate safe care to meet their needs. Our joint winter plan in collaboration with UL Hospitals Group will ensure we provide support for the care of patients in the community. We will be working closely with UL Hospitals Group to support the transfer of care for older patients so they can access the appropriate care from their own home or as close to their own home as possible.”

Ms Bridgeman added: “I would urge members of the public to access the right healthcare if they are sick this winter. You can start by looking after yourself, get the flu vaccine, wash your hands and be winter prepared. The ‘Under The Weather’ page on the HSE website at https://www2.hse.ie/under-the-weather/ is a very practical guide to common illnesses and a resource that the public can use to find out how you can help yourself and your family, and when you should contact your GP or pharmacist for advice.”