One of the longest established hospitals in the region turns the page on an exciting new chapter in its history this week, with the opening of the newly developed 24-bed block at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.
‘The Maigue Unit’, named for the river that flows through Croom village, is a modern, state-of-the-art ward complex, with its 24 en-suite single rooms built around a courtyard garden area, and forms a visually stunning architectural showpiece at the entrance to Croom Orthopaedic Hospital.
Work is also ongoing on the first floor of the facility to complete a new €15m theatre suite, complete with four new operating theatres, a first stage recovery room and reception area, as well as a new Sterile Services Department and other ancillary support spaces.
Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group has been a passionate advocate for the development of Croom Orthopaedic Hospital and she said that this red-letter day for Croom was part of ongoing advancements that during 2021 will see the phased opening of the first floor facilities to also include a pre-operative assessment and admissions unit and a new Day Ward.
“I’m delighted to see The Maigue Unit open,” Ms Cowan said. “I’m grateful to all who have helped with the many different aspects of this project, and I wish every success to staff who have taken up roles in the new unit. This is an amazing step that is only part of the ongoing success story that is Croom Orthopaedic Hospital. The development of the hospital’s pain management service will create additional employment opportunities for pain specialists, from Advanced Nurse Practitioners to staff nurses, in addition to Allied Health professionals and administrative support.”
Also welcoming the development as a major opportunity for career advancement in nursing, Margaret Gleeson, Chief Director of Nursing & Midwifery, said: “The Maigue Unit is a stunning complex, and other developments under way will place Croom firmly on the map for nurses looking for career opportunities. Services are expanding in Croom, and with them the clinical experience to be gained. Croom is a rich field of training and development options, and that will continue with the new theatres.
There is a well-established training collaboration with the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Cappagh, and the nursing staff also work closely with the trauma unit in University Hospital Limerick. This training culture, along with the increase in surgical day cases and the continued development of the pain management and rheumatology services, makes Croom a true jewel in terms of career progression and development.”
Katie Sheehan, Assistant Director of Nursing at Croom explains that the immediate focus is on recruiting staff nurses with an interest in orthopaedic and theatre services. The new facilities and working environment of an organisation going through a succession of exciting, positive changes are an obvious attraction. Nurses will also be able to rotate between Croom and University Hospital Limerick, and benefit from the plentiful postgraduate educational opportunities that flow from UL Hospitals Group’s partnership with the University of Limerick.
Ms Sheehan, who started her own career in Croom in the early 1980s, explained: “Any nurse joining the staff in Croom is coming in at an incredibly exciting time. There is a real sense of rejuvenation. The new beds are state of the art, and then our next big development will be the opening of the theatre suite and Sterile Services Department. These will be the most modern facilities of their kind in the country, and they’ll enable us to expand our services by offering day case vascular, maxillofacial and ENT surgeries. This creates more capacity in UHL for major surgical cases, and enhances the skills mix in Croom.”
The developments currently under way at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital were initiated in the springtime of 2020 as part of the national response to COVID-19. Katie Sheehan explains that the developments of the past year have also been a coming to fruition of plans that have been developed over many years, and actively championed and pursued by UL Hospitals Group CEO, Colette Cowan, and Assistant National Director of Estates, Joe Hoare.
“In recent years, longer serving members of staff may have been apprehensive about the future for Croom. But the CEO has pursued the preparation of full plans for permanent developments at the hospital, and when funding became available last year, this ensured that we were at the top of the list. I think many staff would admit that they wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told them in March 2020 that within a year we’d be opening a new, permanent 24-bed block, and have all these developments following shortly after that. There is a lovely sense of rejuvenation in Croom,” she said.
Croom Orthopaedic Hospital first opened as the County Hospital in 1924. It has been an orthopaedic hospital since 1956, save for two months in mid-2020, when it accepted its first medical patients in almost 70 years as part of the UL Hospitals strategy for managing a surge in non-COVID admissions. The efficiency with which the management and staff managed this significant feat is but one sign of the positive attitude across all staff grades on the site.
“This hospital is a very special place to work,” Ms Sheehan explained. “There’s a niceness about small hospitals, because everybody knows everybody else. In Croom, some staff members have worked here for the past 45 years; they live and breathe the hospital. Before the building started and we had the gardens outside, many of the staff were helping to cut grass, plant flowers and paint statues. It wasn’t just maintenance: it was all grades, helping out in their own time. The staff have a huge sense of ownership and pride in their hospital, and what these new developments have done is to allow them to be comfortable in that pride.”
The location of the hospital in the picturesque village of Croom is also minutes’ drive from Limerick city, and proximate to three airports (Shannon, Cork and Kerry). “It’s even handy to access Dublin from here,” explains Ms Sheehan, who adds, “The village too is experiencing a resurgence. The recent opening of the new Coláiste Chiaráin next door, and the new developments in the hospital, these are all going to be beneficial for the town, in terms of commerce and industry.”
She concluded: “The huge positive about Croom Orthopaedic Hospital is that an awful lot of people would like to work in a rural setting, but they also feel that there are no prospects for advancement in rural settings in rural Ireland. But there is, and Croom is testament to that. There’s loads of opportunity for every grade of staff here. There is progression and promotion available in all these grades for people who are looking for it, and are willing to work. There’s loads of opportunity: you don’t have to go into the big city to become an ANP. You can become an ANP in Croom Hospital. These opportunities are available.”
Lorraine Rafter, Interim Group Director of HR at UL Hospitals Group, said: “We are delighted to have this unique opportunity to increase the workforce for Croom Orthopaedic Hospital. The scale of investment for Croom is unparalleled, and active recruitment campaigns are ongoing to support the additional bed capacity and the development of the new theatre complex.
We have already had huge interest and have recruited staff, and we’re continuing with active campaigns to build and future-proof the workforce for Croom going forward. This is a fantastic opportunity for new recruits, and puts UL Hospitals Group firmly on the map as one of the major employers in the Mid-West.”