UL Hospitals Group has confirmed the beginning of the first major relaxation in visiting restrictions across its hospital sites since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
In line with the updated national guidance on visiting hospitals, University Hospital Limerick (UHL), Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital have begun facilitating scheduled timed visiting slots for inpatients and their visitors.
At all these four sites, the scheduled individual inpatient visits are being coordinated by the Clinical Nurse Managers and Ward Clerks, in consultation with patients and their families and loved ones.
It should be noted that these visits are for inpatients only. The Emergency Department, Acute Surgical Assessment Unit, and Acute Medical Assessment Unit at UHL are not open to visitors.
Scheduled visiting slots are being offered at UHL (during the hours of 2-4pm and 6-9pm daily), and Ennis, Nenagh and Croom Orthopaedic Hospitals (2-4pm and 6-8pm daily). These timed visits are limited to one visitor per patient, in line with public health guidelines on social distancing and infection prevention & control. Visitors will be temperature-checked on entry to all hospital sites, and will be required to wear a face mask, observe hand hygiene, and undertake a COVID-19 questionnaire.
At University Hospital Limerick (UHL), the entry point is main reception at the front of the hospital, where temperature monitoring is in place, and security staff are in situ to check-in visitors.
At University Maternity Hospital Limerick, there has been a gradual relaxation of visitor restrictions under way over the past few months. Partners are permitted to accompany women for appointments in the Early Pregnancy Access Unit; daily 45-minute visiting slots are available for partners of women on the ante-natal wards (6pm-9pm daily) and post-natal wards (6pm-8pm daily, including on day of delivery). We also facilitate visiting for fathers/parents of babies in the neonatal unit, and offer the option of having nominated partners present for anomaly scans. Visiting on compassionate has been facilitated throughout the pandemic, and we continue to support the attendance of birthing partners in the Labour Ward and Theatre.
Colette Cowan, Chief Executive Officer of UL Hospitals Group, welcomed the relaxation of visiting restrictions across the Group and said the introduction of restrictions last year had been among the most difficult decisions she had made during her time as CEO.
She said: “Restricting visits were a key infection prevention & control measure in the national pandemic response, and it has been successful in protecting hospitals, patients and our staff from transmission of the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and its variants over the past 16 months. However, we cannot forget either the inconvenience these restrictions have caused for people who have been unable to visit their loved ones in hospital, or the impact of loneliness and isolation on people in our care throughout the pandemic, particularly elderly people.”
The CEO commended the public of the Mid-West for their patience in living with the inconvenience of visiting restrictions, and asked that they continue supporting the public health measures while visiting loved ones in hospital, to prevent any transmission of COVID-19 within our healthcare settings.
There have been exceptions to the visitor restrictions throughout the pandemic, including for patients visiting children in hospital; people visiting patients at end-of-life; people assisting confused patients (e.g. dementia); and people visiting patients in critical care. These arrangements will continue, with a strict limit of one visitor per patient.
In taking decisions to implement or relax restrictions, UL Hospitals Group follows the national guidelines, and has regard to three primary factors: the rate of COVID transmission within the local community; the number of staff in hospitals and the possibility of those staff becoming unwell; and the infrastructure of hospital sites. More recently, we are also noting the concerns nationally and internationally about the transmissibility of the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
Nevertheless, we continue to review access across our hospital sites, to plan for the safe, controlled and phased relaxation of access restrictions, and to ensure all process are safely introduced and managed.