UL Hospitals Group has confirmed the projected timeline for the phased opening of the 60-bed block at University Hospital Limerick.
The new ward block will provide modern, single-room inpatient accommodation. As well as an improved experience for patients in terms of comfort, privacy and dignity; it will better allow us to isolate patients and improve infection prevention and control capabilities. The project is also a significant step in addressing the underlying bed capacity shortages in the MidWest which are acknowledged by all parties.
The 60-Bed Block comprises four stories, with three inpatient wards of 20 en-suite single rooms over a basement level. The first of these wards will open on November 23rd; the second ward on December 14th and the third on January 4th 2021.
Enabling works on this project commenced in April 2019 followed by the main contractor starting on site in September 2019. Construction work has now reached substantial completion and the new building has been handed over by the main contractors, Western Building Systems. The equipping of the three inpatient ward floors is now also well progressed.
The phased opening of the new 60-Bed Block follows the completion earlier this year of two separate rapid-build projects delivered under the Government National Action Plan in Response to Covid-19 which provided an additional 38 inpatient beds on site at UHL.
The projected opening timeline means 78 single rooms will be added by the end of this year and a further 20 beds will be added early in January 2021.
A recruitment campaign has been undertaken to support the opening of the new capacity and we have in recent days reached agreement with trade unions over the phased opening of the new capacity.
Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, commented: “New accommodation that has opened in UHL in recent weeks has greatly improved the care environment for oncology/haematology patients and allowed us to increase our isolation facilities at a time when the need was never greater.
“Completion of the 60-Bed Block brings these improvements a significant step further and the bright modern accommodation is no less than what our patients and our staff deserve after many years where systemwide pressures have left too many of our patients facing long waits for a bed. The 60-Bed Block will improve but not solve the problem of trolley waits and our continued heavy reliance on outdated multi-occupancy nightingale wards. In that regard, we also look forward to the delivery of the 96-Bed Block project which continues to progress through the planning process.”
“Delivery of this project in such a short timeframe is a great achievement by all concerned. We acknowledge the support of government and the HSE. We acknowledge also the work of HSE Estates in delivering this significant capital project so quickly and the contractors who have delivered to such a high standard and in spite of the enormous challenges this pandemic has presented around the supply chain, logistics, workplace safety and so much more . I also wish to acknowledge the assistance of the Defence Forces from Sarsfield Barracks and Collins Barracks (Cork) with the transfer of equipment into the new. The expansion of the UHL site and the considerable growth of our workforce is also an economic boost for our region during this difficult time and into what will be a brighter future.”
Lorraine Rafter Director of Human Resources, UL Hospitals Group said: “The pandemic has also presented new challenges around recruitment, particularly in the international environment in which we compete for in-demand and highly qualified healthcare workers. Recruitment in an organisation the size of ours is a continuous process.
We have been funded to recruit approximately 500 additional staff in UL Hospitals Group to support the additional bed capacity at UHL and other initiatives under the Winter Plan 2020-2021. Many of these staff have already commenced and we are at various stages of the recruitment process to support the phased opening of the 60-Bed Block from next week”
Margaret Gleeson, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, UL Hospitals Group, said: “We have been holding weekly interviews for staff nurses and midwives since early March 2020. We are offering positions to successful candidates on a weekly basis. All current student nurses and midwives graduating from the University of Limerick have been offered permanent contracts. As of the end of October, we have recruited 150 nurses and 75 HCAs in the year to date. In addition, 16 nursing staff have returned from retirement or career breaks. A further 150 nurses have been recruited from overseas and they began taking up positions, on a phased basis, last week.
We have worked closely with the trade unions in agreeing the phased opening of the 60-Bed Block. Staff and patient safety will remain the highest priority and we will continue to work constructively with staff and their representatives as we look to achieve the shared goal of opening additional bed capacity in the coming weeks. Considerable work is required in equipping and deep cleaning the new beds before they can be occupied by patients. We look forward to the first floor opening on November 23rd.”