Hospital access to additional beds

By Mary Dennehy

AS THE number of patients on trolleys nationally reach an all-time high, Tallaght University Hospital is set to benefit with access to additional bed capacity.

On Monday of this week, 760 patients were waiting without beds nationally, the highest daily recorded figure by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

TUH Peamount beds compressor

Carol Cuffe (CHO 7), Aoife Jordan (Clinical Nurse Manager 2), Shona Schneemann (CEO  Peamount Healthcare), Lucy Nugent (CEOTallaght University Hospital), Professor Des O’Neill (Consultant Geriatrician at TUH) and Eileen Whelan (Chief Director of Nursing & Midwifery at the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group)

On Tuesday, 760 patients were again waiting on trolleys, a situation described by the INMO as “extreme overcrowding”.

According to INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, the situation requires “immediate political intervention”, with 760 patients on trolleys a sign that the health service is “simply not functioning”.

While not listed among the worst-hit hospitals, Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) still had 27 patients on trolleys on Monday, January 6, and 28 on Tuesday, January 7.

In recent times, the hospital has introduced a number of partnership projects to build capacity and enhance patient care, one of which has resulted in the delivery of 12 additional beds this week.

Tallaght University Hospital has supported the opening of the first 12 beds in the new Aberdeen Centre at Peamount Healthcare in Newcastle.

This new unit, which hopes to have 50 beds fully operational in 2020, will care for patients over the age of 65 following a stroke, hip fractures or acute illness – supporting them to return home.

The opening of 12 beds this week is funded under the HSE Winter Capacity Fund Initiative and supported by TUH, which will have access to the newly opened 12 beds for patients who are medically fit but require additional rehabilitation before returning home.

On Monday of this week, the first patient from TUH was welcomed onto the new ward, with a further 11 beds available for patients as they become medically fit for discharge.

The nursing and support staff are provided by Peamount while consultants and registrars are from TUH, creating a cohesive link between a patient’s care in Tallaght and Peamount.

Hospacute1 compressor

One of the new beds in Peamount 

Speaking this week, Lucy Nugent, Chief Executive of TUH, said: “We are delighted to see these rehabilitation beds open so early in the year.

“Our hospital is consistently under pressure to accommodate the increasing number and acuity of patients presenting to the hospital.

“By expanding the number of offsite rehabilitation beds available to TUH patients we can reduce waiting times for acutely unwell patients to move from the Emergency Department to a bed and reduce our waiting lists for elective patients to be admitted.”

According to Ms Nugent, the next phase of this programme includes a Community Response Team, which would support older people to avoid hospital admission and expand the current supports within the local community.

The opening of the 12 beds has also been supported by the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, HSE Community Healthcare and all of the teams in Peamount Healthcare.

care team peamount compressor

Members of the multidisciplinary team of staff

Welcoming the additional capacity, Trevor O’Callaghan, CEO of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said: “I would like to acknowledge the foresight of Tallaght University Hospital, Peamount Healthcare and our community partners in addressing the capacity challenges that exist for our hospitals at a time when services are under particular pressure.

“Improving capacity in the greater Dublin area is a key enabler in the delivery of an integrated model of care which will provide continuity of patient care in the right place, and at the right time.

“We look forward to building on this strong collaborative relationship and improving integrated health planning with the opening of 50 additional beds in Peamount in 2020, which remains a key priority for the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.”

Despite access to additional capacity, TUH will continue to be busy over the coming weeks, with visiting restrictions in place.

A spokesperson for TUH said: “Unfortunately due to the volume and acuity of patients presenting to the Emergency Department there may be some delays in being seen for which we apologise.

“Patients in the Emergency Department are prioritised according to clinical need and we would ask the public to attend their GP in the first instance where appropriate.”

The spokesperson added that TUH is working “continuously” to free beds for admitted patients, but that there is a “clear underlying requirement” to develop additional onsite bed capacity.

The new rehabilitation unit that opened this week is to be one of four, 25-bed units in the new Aberdeen Centre in Peamount – 50 of which are expected to open in 2020.

HSE - funding to open more beds? 

The Echo asked the HSE when funding is expected to be delivered to open the rest of the beds planned under the scheme.

A HSE spokesperson said: "The Winter Capacity Initiative provides funding for an allocated time, approximately 3 months.

"The initial 12 beds and staffing are opening and the remaining 13 beds can open subject to availability of staff resources.

"The DMHG (Dublin Midlands Hospital Group) continue to engage with Peamount Healthcare and CHO 7 on the opening of the remaining beds and  are closely managing and monitoring the impact of these additional beds on patient experience and improved patient flow.

"Opportunities with regard to further bed capacity form part of ongoing discussion between all parties.

"Access to such capacity in the greater Dublin area forms part of our future integrated health planning initiatives."

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