Coronavirus: University of Limerick likely to set up field hospital on campus

UL president expects it will be at least mid-June before college reopens to students


University of Limerick is likely to host a field hospital on its campus should health services become overwhelmed from the coronavirus pandemic over the coming weeks.

UL president Prof Des Fitzgerald said he expects it will be at least mid-June before the college reopens to students and the campus may be need to assist health services in the meantime.

“It is likely before then [MID-JUNE] that UL will play host to a field hospital as our frontline health services are potentially overwhelmed,” he said.

“We are currently working with the HSE to develop more sophisticated systems of contact tracing, with the inclusion of testing. This is further to the change in testing criteria in recent days,” said, Prof Fitzgerald, a cardiologist and former chief academic officer of the Ireland East Hospital Group.

Prof Fitzgerald also urged people to take personal responsibility to try and slow down this virus and try to save lives.

“These are extraordinary times. We are facing the single biggest health crisis in living memory,” he said.

“I am deeply concerned that people are not fully realising the severity of the situation and so are not changing their behaviour quickly enough.

“The Government and health authorities are doing everything they can and those at the front line facing Covid-19 coronavirus are performing incredible work.

“Those that are dealing directly with this crisis don’t have the luxury to self-isolate and reduce their personal contact – we owe it to those at the coalface to do everything we can to buy them enough time to deal with this crisis.

“We have a small window of time right now where we can really have an influence over how bad this gets. We still have a chance to flatten out the curve of this deadly virus and help to interrupt its march but we need to act now, today, this morning.”

Prof Fitzgerald said the move to more widespread testing means there will be far more positive test results, given that that the virus is far more widespread than the number of tests indicate now.

“We have to do anything and everything to stop this awful virus spreading. The professionals will do their part, so you must do your part. Stop this virus spreading - stay apart,” he said.

“What you do now will have an impact long into the future. We owe it to the sisters, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers and sons, mothers and fathers placing themselves in the way of this virus that is already spreading through our community. We must take action and by remaining apart, we stand together,” Prof Fitzgerald added.

Universities, meanwhile, have brought forward final examinations for final year medical students amid concerns over the spread of the virus.

The examinations which were to be held towards the end of April have been taking place over recent days at NUI Galway and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland

The Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland said it had taken the move to avoid any delays in the graduation of the final year class this year.

“Much of the current education and exams activity could be conducted online. We have taken a decision to move forward one element of the final year medicine exams,” a RCSI spokesperson said.

“This exam is a mandatory requirement for final year students to be awarded their medical degree at the end of May. The exam has been brought forward in order to ensure that there is no delay in the graduation of the Class of 2020 because of any restrictions that could be put in place as a response to Covid-19.”

Other universities with schools of medicine, such as University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, have moved to online teaching for most classes but have not announced plans to bring forward final year medicine exams.