Ireland's largest and most advanced Emergency Department, at University Hospital Limerick, has been officially opened this Monday, June 12th, by the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.
The €24 million department (development and equipment costs) provides a significantly enhanced patient experience and is equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment allowing for faster investigations and treatments for the sickest patients, improving outcomes.
The new ED has been funded by the HSE and occupies the Ground Floor of both the €40m Critical Care Block which opened in late 2014 and the more recently constructed Dialysis Unit at first floor level.
At 3,850 square metres of floor space, the new ED is over three times the size of the old department. In 2016, UHL had the busiest ED in the country, with over 64,000 attendances.
Almost 100 additional staff have been recruited to work in the ED, which has increased capacity for patients and has been designed with the input of senior clinicians to improve patient flow, reduce patient experience times (PET) and improve outcomes for the sickest patients.
Speaking as he officially opened the department today, Minister Harris said: “This is a fantastic development and will vastly improve the experience and comfort of patients and their families, and provide staff with a fitting workplace environment.
“The opening of this new €24 million ED heralds a new beginning. It is three times the size of the previous ED, and provides modern, safe and fit for purpose facilities that will meet patients’ and families’ expectations.
“The facility also provides high quality, comfortable accommodation that protects patients’ privacy and dignity,” Minister Harris said.
Prof Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said: “Since opening the department two weeks ago, we have been heartened by the response of patients and their families and of our own staff. It has been designed very much with patient comfort in mind. Small design details stand out everywhere you look, for example with non-slip floors, better signage and handrails to allow elderly patients better navigate the department.
“The new environment will also allow us to introduce new ways of working and the latest thinking on patient flow has been integrated into every joint and contour of this department. Our ED consultants have adapted concepts from industry from all over the world and brought that thinking back to Limerick for the benefit of our patients, to make their journey through the ED as smooth as possible and their experience as pleasant as possible,” she said.
The new ED features the most advanced diagnostic equipment of any such facility in Ireland or the UK, including a c. €1 million, 128-slice CT scanner which is mounted on a track to minimise the movement of the sickest patients in Resuscitation, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment of stroke, trauma patients etc.
The facility is separated into different pods and zones, allowing for paediatric patients, major cases, minor cases etc to be treated separately, matched to the most appropriate clinical expertise and moved to the next stage of the their care in the most efficient manner.
Each separate area has its own isolation facilities that offer a gold standard in infection prevention and control. The number of triage areas has increased from one to four, including a separate room for paediatric triage. There is an advanced pharmacy dispensing system next to staff bases throughout the department and the pneumatic chute system for sending specimens to the laboratories is now available throughout the ED as opposed to a single point of access previously. Other features include a decontamination suite; two family rooms attached to a viewing room and garden for bereaved relatives; an internal courtyard which can be accessed by patients; a dedicated space for patients presenting with a mental health crisis; significantly improved staff facilities and a simulation room and education/training facilities that will significantly enhance the attractiveness of UHL as a major teaching hospital.
Contracts for the fit-out and completion of the new emergency department and adjoining 25-bed dialysis unit at University Hospital Limerick were signed in August 2015. Works also involved the demolition of the old dialysis department, the provision of a separate roadway for ambulance access and alterations to the internal road layout at UHL.
The delivery of the capital element was managed by the local Estates office of the HSE and the design team appointed included O’Connell Mahon Architects, Punch Consulting Engineers, JV Tierney & Co Consulting Engineers and O’Reilly Hyland Tierney Quantity Surveyors. The successful building contractor was John Sisk & Son Holdings Ltd. The capital budget included almost €4m for equipping the new ED including circa €1.5m for the provision of both the CT equipment provided by Siemens Healthcare and also two modern digital X-Ray Rooms equipped by Medray Imaging Systems.