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MUH under extreme pressure

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‘EXTREMELY BUSY' Saolta have said the Emergency Department at Mayo University Hospital contines to be extremely busy.

County hospital crippled by Covid and an outdated ED

Edwin McGreal

An outbreak of Covid-19 at Mayo University Hospital in recent days, combined with very high patient numbers at the hospital’s emergency department, has led to demands for the long-awaited new emergency department to be fast-tracked.
Yesterday (Monday), Saolta, the hospital group for the northwest, urged people not to attend the hospital with Covid-19 unless they are feeling ‘acutely unwell’. It added that the hospital’s emergency department remains ‘extremely busy’.
The move prompted local councillor Michael Kilcoyne to call for the timeline for a new emergency department to be accelerated.
“The current emergency department (ED) is not fit for purpose, and that has become more and more apparent since Covid-19 arrived,” he told The Mayo News.
As of Sunday night at 8pm, there were 36 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Mayo University Hospital. Of these, one case is in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Also as of Sunday night, there were no available ICU beds or general beds at the hospital.  

Outbreaks inside and out
Saolta confirmed on Friday that there was an outbreak within the hospital, at which stage it limited visiting at MUH to ‘compassionate grounds’ from the next day.
On Saturday, Saolta stated the ED was ‘extremely busy’ which has been ‘exacerbated by the rising Covid-19 cases in the community along with a Covid-19 outbreak on the site’.
Similar to many hospitals across the country, MUH has also been impacted by positive Covid cases among staff.
Yesterday, Saolta said the situation had not changed, and the hospital was continuing to deal with high ED attendances, rising Covid cases in the community and an onsite outbreak.

Only ‘acutely unwell’
The group said that patients will be streamed in advance of entering the emergency department, and those who are required to attend the nearby Acute Covid Assessment Unit (ACAU) will be directed there.
Saolta went onto say that ‘Mayo University Hospital is urging people to only attend at the ACAU if they are acutely unwell’.
“While the ACAU is a dedicated assessment unit for Covid, it must prioritise those with greatest medical need. People with mild symptoms are urged to self-isolate and book a PCR test when available,” stated Saolta.
They also asked people to only attend the ED ‘in an emergency’.
“We are committed to treating everyone who presents to our ED however we do so strictly in order of medical priority. Given the volume of patients attending the emergency department, we regret there will be delays and long wait times for those who do not need urgent treatment,” they stated.
They added that those waiting to be seen at the emergency department must wait alone, saying a ‘companion will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances’.

‘Not good enough’
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said this further underlines the need for a new emergency department.
“We are hearing there will be a new A&E in three or four years. That’s not good enough. We’ve been promised it for over ten years. It is a matter of priority.
“Surely HSE Estates, who are responsible for hospital builds, have plans in place for different hospitals that can be easily adjusted and rolled out? Apply to Mayo County Council for planning and away we go.
“It is frustratingly slow for an essential upgrade,” he added.
Last August, Saolta said it had received €100,000 to ‘initiate a design feasibility project’ for the expansion of the ED.
Ahead of General Election 2020, a Mayo News poll of all candidates in the Mayo Constituency found broad agreement that the need for a new ED at the hospital was ‘urgent’.
“First and foremost we need an extension to our emergency department which has been promised for the last eight years,” said Senator Lisa Chambers.
At a local council meeting in 2017, the hospital’s Deputy Manager Lucy Martindale confirmed that in 2016 the emergency department at MUH had to deal with twice the number of patients it was designed for.
She explained the ED is designed for a ‘throughput’ of 20,000 patients a year, but during 2016 it had to deal with over 40,000.