A brand new Outpatients Department (OPD) for Ennis General Hospital will open next week at an off-site location.
The ongoing work of UL Hospitals Group to improve access to hospital outpatient services for the people of County Clare and the Mid-West Region will pass a significant milestone with the opening of the of the new OPD next week.
Situated at Westpoint Retail Park on the Kilrush Road, the new department will initially house the services currently based in Ennis Hospital, and also allow for the expansion of outpatient services into the future.
“This beautifully designed, state of the art facility is what the people of Clare have long been entitled to for outpatient services,” said UL Hospitals Group CEO, Colette Cowan, sending her best wishes to department manager, Clinical Nurse Manger, Claire Lenane, and hospital staff as they prepare to welcome the first patients into the facility on Monday March 29th.
The initial phase of operations for the new facility will entail a relocation of outpatient staff currently based at Ennis Hospital, at a pace determined by the hospital’s re-emergence from Level 5 COVID-19 restrictions.
The HSE has this month published its Covid recovery plan A Safe Return To Health Services which envisages that outpatient clinics around the country will be resumed to the levels set out in the 2021 National Service Plan by the third quarter of this year. Up to 30% of all consultations will take place over the phone or by video call.
With a total floor space of 1,300 square metres, the new OPD in Ennis has 15 clinical rooms, in addition to a phlebotomy bay, four waiting areas, offices and staff changing rooms. The new department, which has an equipping allocation of €900,000 for 2021, will allow for the relocation of services such as cardiac rehabilitation and, later this year, radiology and general X-Ray. All activity in the OPD is scheduled and operates on an appointment-only basis.
Situated approximately 3.5km from Ennis Hospital in Westpoint Retail Park on the Kilrush Road, the new building is easily accessible from the M18 Limerick-Galway motorway and N85 by-pass of the County Clare town.
The enhanced facilities for patients and staff will allow for future extension and expansion of services for the overall improvement of the patient experience at Ennis Hospital. Greater capacity, in addition to facilities that are future-proofed with ongoing advances in telehealth, will assist with efforts to reduce waiting periods and manage waiting lists.
In 2019, the last full year prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency, there were 15,176 outpatient appointments in Ennis OPD (not including warfarin, physiotherapy, psychiatry and CNS-led clinics). In 2020, due to the various responses to the pandemic, this decreased by 22.1% to 11,818, of which approximately 40% were conducted virtually.
The development of the facility has been a priority for UL Hospitals Group in improving local access to non-acute patient care. The primary reason for this relocation is that the current building at Ennis Hospital was deemed no longer suitable for the demands for a modern day Outpatients Service.
Outgoing project lead Sheila Mulcair said: “I’m delighted that the new Outpatients Department at Westpoint has opened on schedule with our projected opening date of Quarter 1, 2021,” she said.
“Access is much improved. Currently in the hospital, it can be very difficult to get parking on some days of the week. But here, there is ample parking, easy access from the bypass, and the building is bright, airy and modern, developed specifically with patients’ needs in mind. For the people of the Mid-West region, it’s nothing less than what they deserve,” Ms Mulcair added.
Clare County Council granted permission for the project in October 2018, and works began in 2019, interrupted only by a two-month period in 2020 due to the social and physical distancing restrictions imposed nationally in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is very much a forward-looking development,” said Noreen Spillane, Chief Operations Officer, UL Hospitals Group. “Westpoint supports the strategies outlined in the Sláintecare programme, which aims to enhance health promotion and help people to stay healthy, and provide services that deliver the very best in modern healthcare, in the best location, when they are needed, while providing value for money to the population that funds them.”
Preparing for opening day next Monday, department manager, Claire Lenane, said: “The team in Ennis OPD are very much looking forward to welcoming our patients to this modern, patient-centred facility, which will allow for expansion and developments of services, and provide an enhanced experience for patients who attend here.