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New Health Regions ‘A Great Opportunity’ For Improving Hospital Care

CEO Colette Cowan - ULH
UL Hospitals Group CEO Colette Cowan

- Colette Cowan Begins New Five-Year Term as UL Hospitals Group CEO

- Significant Increase in Hospital Activity Since 2014

Regional health areas providing integrated, person-centred care present “a great opportunity to improve the patient experience in acute hospitals”, according to UL Hospitals Group CEO Colette Cowan.

Ms Cowan said the Group was looking forward to the development of the six regions announced by Minister for Health Simon Harris as a key driver in delivering the Slaintecare health reforms.

Ms Cowan was speaking following her reappointment as Group CEO for a five-year term.

“I am delighted to take up the challenge of leading the thousands of dedicated hospital staff in Limerick, Clare and Tipperary over the next five years. The creation of integrated health regions present great challenges and great opportunities that we must all strive to meet as the promise of Slaintecare is to deliver truly transformative change for the people of the MidWest and the country at large,” Ms Cowan said.

“We were only just emerging from a deep recession when I was appointed as CEO in 2014. The MidWest had been more seriously affected than other regions and the difficulties in the public finances had a serious adverse impact on the delivery of health services. Over the last five years however, UL Hospitals Group has increased its workforce from 3,000 to 4,200; managed a budget that grew from €267 million to €351 million and delivered more care to more patients at a rate greater than the population increase in general. For example, the number of attendances at our Emergency Department/Injury Units increased from 85,816 to 103,063 over the last five years and the number in-centre dialysis treatments in UHL grew from 10,412 to 17,232.”

“In spite of the challenging environment - increasing demand; international shortage of key healthcare professionals; financial realities etc – the Group continues to increase its clinical activity, grow its workforce, enhance its academic profile and achieve crucial targets in quality and patient safety,” Ms Cowan said.

“We are also keenly aware that our capacity to meet demand is lacking in key areas and this is most manifest in the long waits for a bed faced by admitted patients and in growing outpatient waiting lists. Patient experience in these areas has been poor for many and I remain absolutely committed to improving this.”

Significant capital projects delivered over the last five years include the new Emergency Department, Leben Building (CF, breast, stroke and dermatology services), Dialysis Unit, Clinical Education and Research Centre at UHL; improved end-of-life care facilities in Ennis Hospital and University Maternity Hospital Limerick and the new ward block and Cataract Theatre at Nenagh Hospital.

New service developments – such as the Da Vinci Xi robotic surgery programme and the Hybrid Operating Theatre (vascular) – at UHL have delivered all the benefits of advanced surgery to patients in the MidWest. Together with HSE MidWest Community Healthcare, the Group has delivered the first perinatal mental health service in the country outside of Dublin. More specialist clinics than ever before are being led in Ennis and Nenagh hospitals by consultants and an increasing number of advanced nurse and midwifery practitioners. And UL Hospitals Group was delighted to form its first Patient Council to give patients an active voice in service planning and delivery.

Over the last five years, UL Hospitals Group has consistently met or exceeded the national targets for average length of stay, day of surgery admissions and readmission rates. Key quality indicators have shown excellent results in perinatal care and for in-hospital mortality rates for heart attack and stroke.

Ms Cowan said that while Slaintecare envisaged “a move away from Ireland’s hospital-centric model to delivering more care in primary and community settings, we expect to be busier than ever over the next five years, advancing our strategic objectives and further developing more specialist services for those patients who need it most”.

Ms Cowan said her current priorities for the Group included:

  • The implementation of Sláintecare in the MidWest
  • The development of a Health Science Academy jointly with the University of Limerick
  • Completion of the 60-bed block currently under construction at UHL and progression of the separate 96-bed block included in Project Ireland 2040
  • Planning the relocation of the University Maternity Hospital Limerick to the University Hospital Limerick campus in line with Project Ireland 2040 Plan
  • New outpatient accommodation in Ennis Hospital to facilitate expansion of clinics
  • Progression of plans for new theatres at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital
  • Extension and further development of the Children’s Ark UHL in line with the National Paediatric Model of Care
  • Enhanced diagnostics for UHL through the Blood Sciences Project and the acquisition of a second MRI scanner
  • Continued focus on the growth of UL Hospitals Group as a major centre for cancer care, robotics, ageing and therapeutics, paediatrics and specialist services outside of the Dublin region
  • Continued positive engagement with all stakeholders including trade unions and public representatives
  • Continued development and recognition of staff with greater access to education, training and leadership opportunities
  • Continued planning with Public Services Working Together (HSE MidWest Community Healthcare, Limerick City and County Council, An Garda Siochana) to bring forward a charter for change to include community-based care, age-friendly services and regeneration
  • Continued work with Limerick Chamber and industry partners to bring forward digital innovations in the MidWest region