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MUH to remain cautious on visitor arrangements

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VISITOR RESTRICTIONS STILL IN PLACE Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar.

Anton McNulty

THE head of the Saolta group of hospitals believes that people calling for a return to pre-Covid visitor arrangements in Mayo University Hospital have short memories.
Tony Canavan, the CEO of the Saolta Group of hospitals which includes Mayo University Hospital, made the comments at last Tuesday’s HSE Regional Health Forum West meeting.
Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne asked the Forum why visitor restrictions in Mayo University Hospital have yet to be lifted, claiming there was no scientific reason for it.
“I know the staff are busy and there are staff shortages but I think restricting people from visiting their families for no good reason or scientific reason I am aware of is wrong. I think it should be reviewed,” he told the meeting.
However, Mr Canavan refuted the claim, saying that the hospital has to remain vigilant in order to continue to manage Covid-19.
“I take exception that there is no good reason and in fairness memories are very short if that is the position we are taking. It is not so long ago the discussions here at the Forum were around the difficulties of managing Covid -19 in hospitals,” he said.
“We agree that patients need to have visitors for their social wellbeing and their improvement and we all agree about that.
“We want to facilitate that in a safe way but we can all agree as well that it is not that long since the fourth wave of Covid. We are being cautious in terms of reintroducing the visiting arrangements prior to Covid which were very much walk-in without any restrictions. We are not sure if that is the best arrangement for where we are at right now,” he added.
Since the beginning of April access for visitors to the hospital is by appointment only where patients have to identify who they would like to visit and a time slot will be offered.
Earlier this month, Sligo University Hospital, which is part of the Saolta Group, eased visitor restrictions whereby visiting hours have been reintroduced and visitors will no longer have to make an appointment to see a patient.
On the day of the Forum meeting there was only one confirmed case of Covid-19 in MUH and Cllr Kilcoyne questioned why MUH was not going in the same direction as other hospitals. He said he was not happy with the current position that all visits is by appointment in consultation with the patient, ward manager and visiting person.
“I got a number of complaints from people saying they were refused entry into the hospital,” he said.  
“I am not happy because this is feedback I get from families and patients. Their lunch is given to them and nobody is there to assist them. These are people who need assistance and whose families used to go in and assist them with their food.”
Mr Canavan accepted that while current visiting restrictions are not the same as before the pandemic they have been relaxed to allow some visits. However he believes the approach being taken is the right one.
“It is different to pre-Covid times in fairness. It used to be a walk in arrangement but it reflects where we are right now that we are coming out of a pandemic. We want to facilitate visiting for patients because we understand the importance of visiting for the patient and their families. But we have to balance that to make sure we stay vigilant and the arrangements we have in place to manage Covid because we are not out of it completely yet,” he said.