“Multiple outbreaks” of Covid-19 at University Hospital Limerick and at Ennis Hospital, in Clare, have resulted in cancellations of “all routine outpatient appointments and the majority of elective procedures” this Thursday and Friday.
The UL Hospitals Group chief executive Colette Cowan, who oversees both hospitals as well as several others, said the group was trying to manage “a complex situation involving multiple outbreaks” of coronavirus.
Ms Cowan said it was “vital” that any patient requiring emergency care attend at UHL’s 24-hour emergency department, which remained open.
She said she regretted the impact on patients, but that the announced measures were “necessary in the interests of patient and staff safety”.
A spokesman for the group running both hospitals, said it would not be releasing information on the numbers of positive cases at both hospitals.
They said “significant numbers of staff are currently off work and self-isolating having either tested positive for Covid-19 or been designated as close contact”.
The Group’s clinical director, Professor Brian Lenehan, said “the volume of staff currently self-isolating having come into contact with Covid-19 is now such that we are curtailing scheduled care to concentrate resources on emergency presentations and on inpatients”.
He added “this will also serve to reduce footfall in our hospitals in the coming days”, and that, “such cancellations are provided for in our escalation plan”.
The group spokesman said “separate Covid/query Covid and non-Covid pathways are in place to keep patients safe”.
“Outbreak control teams established in both locations are working closely with public health and occupational health colleagues and all the relevant HPSC guidance is being followed as we work to contain the virus and to protect patients and staff,” they said.
“Contact tracing and testing of staff and patients is continuing and we are putting into effect all the appropriate infection control measures to mitigate the risk.”
Meanwhile, elective surgery and outpatient activity have been suspended at Naas General Hospital for two weeks due to a number of Covid-19 outbreaks.
The hospital has asked the public only to attend the emergency department if “absolutely necessary” as it has been experiencing a high level of attendances in recent days.
People with minor and less urgent medical problems are advised to see their pharmacy/GP/out-of-hours service in the first instance, where possible and appropriate, it said.
The hospital is dealing with a number of Covid-19 outbreaks involving patients and staff.
“The hospital management team have implemented a number of measures to ensure the safety of patients and staff in line with infection prevention control and public health advice and guidance,” a statement from the hospital said.
“As part of the Covid-19 action plan the hospital is maintaining essential services – however a decision has been taken to pause elective surgery, endoscopy and outpatient activity for a two-week period. All patients are being contacted directly by the hospital.”
Speaking at Oireachtas committee on Wednesday, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said it was dealing with a significant issue in Naas. He stressed no other hospital in the country was in the same situation.
Kildare GP Dr Brendan O’Shea urged any one in the county who is in need of medical assistance to contact their GP rather than going to accident and emergency as Naas hospital is under pressure and has stopped elective procedures.
Dr O’Shea told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that if people contacted their GP rather than waiting until the evening or weekend this would help reduce hospital admissions.
GPs had been requested to help reduce attendance at emergency departments, he said – which was stressful for patients and for GPs alike, but he was confident that the situation in Naas hospital would be brought under control.
Dr O’Shea said there was still “a significant volume of service” at Naas hospital despite the suspension of non-emergency surgery and outpatient activity following separate Covid-19 outbreaks involving staff and patients.
Figures from the HSE indicate there are at present 30 confirmed cases of Covid-19 being treated at hospital, with a further two suspected cases and one patient in ICU with Covid-19.
Outpatient appointments and endoscopy services have also been postponed for the next two weeks, and patients affected by the delays are being contacted.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation last Friday said 35 nurses and 10 healthcare assistants were unavailable for work due to being diagnosed with the virus or being a close contact.