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Phase One of UMHL neonatal unit extension nearing completion

University Maternity Hospital Limerick

The first phase of a two-stage project to extend the neonatal intensive care unit at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) and refurbish the department's existing facilities will be complete in the coming weeks.

Phase one has involved building a two-storey extension to accommodate staff and parents’ facilities currently located in the existing neonatal unit, creating the opportunity to refurbish and expand cot spaces, which will be undertaken in the second phase of the project.

The new structure, facing the Ennis Road, will house parents' accommodation, a new lactation centre to support breastfeeding, and a clinical engineering unit, as well as support facilities for neonatal nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, and secretarial l teams. It is envisaged that the extension will also house dedicated areas for clinical teaching and research.

Freeing up of all of the above services that operate from within the existing neonatal unit will pave the way for phase two of the project – the refurbishment and expansion of cot spaces in the department’s intensive care, high dependency and isolation areas. This will help to avoid crowding and reduce the chances of infection outbreaks. It is planned also, in line with international evidence and on foot of feedback from parents, to create two family-centred care rooms.

The project’s Clinical Lead, consultant neonatologist Prof Roy K Philip, welcomed the imminent completion of the first phase. "UMHL is more than six decades old, and as time has gone by, the spatial and infrastructural limitations of the hospital have often presented challenges to the delivery of safe, high quality care for the most premature and critically ill newborn infants”.

“It was in that context that UL Hospitals Group CEO Colette Cowan has championed the project for funding prioritisation by the HSE. The capital project to extend the neonatal unit and refurbish the existing facility is being delivered in two phases. It is the first phase of the project, the new two-storey extension, that is now visible from the Ennis Road and nearing completion,” Prof Philip added.

“We are working with the Capital & Estates division of the HSE who are responsible for the management and delivery of the project. We are following a blended design concept and with the cooperation of all the staff at UMHL, we are confident of developing one of the best neonatal units in the country,” commented Prof Philip.

UMHL was opened in 1960, and at the time it was envisaged that the hospital would manage approximately 3,000 births per year. In recent years, there have been over 4,200 deliveries per year, and in addition to this capacity issue, pregnancy and childbirth has become increasingly complex.

This two-phase neonatal refurbishment project is one of a number of initiatives being undertaken to improve services at UMHL, pending the eventual relocation of the maternity hospital from its stand-alone city centre site on the Ennis Road to the University Hospital Limerick (UHL) campus in Dooradoyle. The relocation will be the most significant advance for women and babies in the Mid-West since the opening of UMHL. There is a commitment to the relocation project in Project Ireland 2040 and while there is no specific target date for its completion it is anticipated it will take seven to ten years to deliver given the scale of the project.

UL Hospitals Group Director of Midwifery, Ms Eileen Ronan, welcomed the enhanced infrastructure and facilities that this modular unit will provide to our smallest neonatal infants at UMHL, especially the dedicated lactation unit and the enhanced space to provide a safe clinical environment for infants and staff.