UL to close temporary field hospital despite Covid-19 resurgence

Alex Mulhare

University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has announced the closure of its field hospital that provided crucial amounts of extra capacity throughout the pandemic. 

Since mid-summer, the €1 million facility was used to treat almost 200 patients, all of whom where non-Covid patients.

The intermediate care facility (ICF) was initially set up to alleviate the pressure on UHL, which has consistently ranked as the most overcrowded facility in the country, seeing 56 patients on trolleys last week alone, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO).

Labour Councillor for Limerick City and County Council, Elena Secas addressed the announcement, saying that the decision to close the UL field hospital during the current resurgence of the virus “came as a shock to many people.”

She emphasised the fact that UHL has more than double the number of patients waiting for a bed than any other facility in the country. 

“It would have made more sense to keep the UL field hospital open during the next few months and make the decision then to close it if the demand was no longer there,” the councillor said.

To offset the closure, UHL added 14 beds through the rapid construction of more rooms at UHL. The hospital expects to continue construction by adding 68 new beds by the end of November, and a total of 98 before the new year. 

Despite the extra capacity, UHL patients on the hospital’s waiting list have not seen a decrease in their waiting times.

The field hospital, however, has been hailed as a success by UHL management itself, being praised for its increased capacity that subsequently allowed for the work placements of 33 medical students.

The University’s president, professor Kerstin May told the Chlair Echo that the ICF “was an example of a very collaborative multi-organisational solution to serve our community at an anxious and difficult time.”

“Our students in many health disciplines had opportunities to experience excellent practice-based education and inter-professional collaboration at the facility and to be involved in giving care to patients with complex needs,” she added.

Alex Mulhare

Image credit: HSE