Injury Units providing thousands throughout pandemic

Injury Units providing thousands throughout pandemic

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Treatment of minor injuries need not be a major hassle for the people of County Clare and the Mid-West, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Injury Units across UL Hospitals Group, including Ennis Hospital, open seven days a week for expert treatment of sprains, breaks, cuts and minor burns.

The Group’s three Injury Units—at Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and St John’s Hospital—deliver efficient, expert treatment to tens of thousands of patients with minor injuries every year.

During the pandemic, the Units have also been of crucial assistance in relieving pressure on the Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick, which is required for treatment of COVID-19 cases and the most seriously ill non-COVID patients.

Patients attending the Injury Unit in Ennis benefit from the expertise and care of a consultant-led team of doctors, Registered Advanced Nurse Practitioners (RANPs), nurses, and other healthcare professionals who are highly experienced in the treatment of injuries that may not be threatening to life, but which nonetheless require medical attention and treatment.

The Injury Unit at Ennis Hospital, which serves the population of County Clare seven days a week, 8am-8pm, processed 9,537 attendances during 2020. This was a 17.3% decrease on the previous year due to the impact of COVID-19 social restrictions. One notable contributor to the decrease was the impact of restrictions on sport and consequent reduction in sports injuries.

Photo: © Pat Flynn 2020

Brenda Bleach, who is one of a team of Registered Advanced Nurse Practitioners who work in the three Injury Units, explains that she and her colleagues remain busy due to the variety and amount of other injuries that people have suffered while at home during the pandemic.

“Because of the restrictions, people have been doing more DIY in their homes, for example, and getting injured while using the tools. There have also been more slips, trips and falls than we would normally expect at this time of the year, and that is probably due to people wanting to use their permitted exercise routes, even during the frosty, icy weather,” Brenda explains.

“The most important thing for people to remember is that we are here to treat minor injuries. People shouldn’t delay in seeking treatment for their injury. The Injury Unit here in Ennis Hospital is safe. I’m finding that people might be either delaying coming here due to fear of COVID-19, or that they have not been aware of what it is we do here, our standards of care, and the speed with which they can be seen and treated,” she says.

Brenda adds: “Our requirement is for people to wear a mask, use the alcohol gel supplied and to social distance in the waiting areas. Only those who need treatment should attend the Injury Unit: relatives or friends should remain in their cars or at home. Patients who require specific assistance and parents of children will be accommodated.”

“The message is clear: our Injury Unit is a safe place. Rigorous infection prevention and control standards are in place in the unit and throughout the hospital to keep all patients and staff safe. Anyone needing treatment for a minor injury should come to us without delay. If anyone is unsure whether they can be treated in the Injury Unit, they can also ring us for advice,” Brenda says.

During the pandemic, anyone attending ED in UHL with a minor injury is being re-directed to the nearest Injury Unit.  Although the Ennis team asks the public to be mindful that waiting times may increase in line with numbers attending, the Injury Units in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s are the fastest and most efficient pathway for minor injuries.

The Group’s three Injury Units are among 11 of these facilities across the country. Average turn-around time for seeing and treating patients in Injury Units is 1-2 hours. All Injury Units provide patients with the same degree of expertise and service as Emergency Departments. For appropriate patients who wish to avoid long waiting times, Injury Units are the best option. The only exceptions are patients with serious head, back and neck injuries, abdominal (stomach) pain, medical illnesses or mental health problems, and children under the age of five years.

RANPs are an important element of the overall service at the injury units. Brenda and her ANP colleagues can perform a full episode of care on patients, from admission to discharge, as well as follow-up and ongoing review. There is also a referral pathway in place where more complex problems can be referred on, either to the unit’s consultant lead or the relevant specialised area.

“We are also seeing some patients from outside our catchment area,” Brenda explains. “People in areas bordering Clare, such as Gort in County Galway, have been attending our unit, and that’s welcome. Along with the high standards and efficiency of the service, we also have free and plentiful parking, so there is a lot to recommend our unit if you have a minor injury that needs treatment. Our message is, don’t delay getting treatment!”

Operational Director of Nursing at Ennis Hospital, Patricia O’Gorman, echoed Brenda’s words: “The Injury Unit here in Ennis Hospital treats thousands of patients every year, who are very satisfied with the efficiency of our staff and the standards of care in the unit. This has been the case throughout the pandemic and at all times. However, especially at this most difficult time, I would urge anyone who needs treatment for a minor injury not to delay—come to us immediately, or to any of the three Injury Units in UL Hospitals Group.”

Attendance at the Injury Units in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals costs €75. There is no charge for patients with full medical cards or with a valid medical/GP referral letter. The Injury Unit at Ennis Hospital is open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, and can be contacted on 065-6863121.

The unit at Nenagh Hospital (seven days, 8am-8pm) can be contacted on 067-42311, while the St John’s Hospital unit (seven days, 8am-7pm) can be contacted on 061-462303.

Visit www.hse.ie/injuryunits for further information.

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