Community urged to stand with hospital

By Mary Dennehy

THE CEO of Tallaght University Hospital has this week made a direct appeal to the community to “stand with” their local hospital as staff respond to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

Speaking with The Echo, CEO Lucy Nugent said that in the past two weeks the hospital has experienced a steady increase in numbers and, as of Tuesday afternoon, Tallaght had the highest number of Covid positive patients (three) ventilated in the country.

Lucy Nugent 1

Tallaght Hospital CEO Lucy Nugent

Ms Nugent spoke with The Echo following the release of data that showed Tallaght to have the second highest rate of Covid-19 cases nationally in the past 14 days.

Data on the real-time incidence of the virus by local electoral area was on Saturday, September 19, published for the first time on the Government’s online Covid-19 data hub.

The data, which is a 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population, recorded an incidence rate of 175.9 per 100,000 in Tallaght Central (76 cases) - the second highest rate in the country.

The Local Electoral area of Tallaght South has an incidence rate of 138.2 (49 cases) for the same 14 day period, September 1 to September 14.

Tallaght hospital 7 1

TUH

“As the numbers go up in the community, the numbers go up in the hospital”, Ms Nugent said.

“We’ve converted our ICU back into two different units, Covid ICU and non-Covid ICU.”

As numbers decreased during the summer, the local hospital returned to its normal ICU set-up.

However, a recent surge in numbers has resulted in the return of a Covid and non-Covid ICU, which is curtailing elective surgery.

“Over the summer we were able to ramp up elective surgery to a normal level of activity”, Ms Nugent said.

“However, we are now utilising part of our operations theatre as a non-Covid ICU unit.”

Ms Nugent confirmed that TUH has planning permission for an ICU expansion, which will provide an additional 12 critical care beds – with the hospital hoping to soon secure HSE approval to “expedite” the project.

Ms Nugent also noted how the rate of hospital admissions through the emergency department  (ED) is also on the increase.

According to Ms Nugent, the admission rate for people presenting to the emergency department (ED) is up three per cent on this time last year, with an eight per cent increase in patients over 75 being admitted.

“These admissions are not necessarily Covid-19 related, but we have the added complexity of Covid to manage”, she said.

“As in the initial surge, staff have been professional, flexible and adaptive and have went above and beyond.

“They are tired too but I am confident they can continue to step us as they have shown since March.

“Because we have split ICU, we have enough staff to cope at the moment but if numbers increase that could be challenging.

“During the first surge everything stopped but we are now trying to balance the demands of normal activity with the challenges of Covid.”

TUH has "adapted"

As reported in The Echo in recent months, the team at Tallaght has introduced many new ways of working and innovative digital solutions to assist patient care during the pandemic.

New initiatives include the introduction of virtual out patient clinics, the use of which are up 15 per cent in the past three months, and new single sign-on technology for staff logging onto the hospital’s many systems.

The single sign-on technolgoy has saved  58 minutes for each healthcare professional per eight hour shift, time that can be invested back into patient care.

“All of these new measures are here to stay”, Ms Nugent said.

“We want to reassure the community that we have adapted but we need them to come with us and work with us.

“We need the community to stand with us.

“The actions of today will influence how the hospital will be able to cope tomorrow, next week and for the rest of the year.

“There is no blame here, we have a situation, what as a community are we going to do about it?”

In a direct appeal to the community, Ms Nugent said: “I’m the daughter of a 92-year-old mother and I’m a mother to three children in their twenties.

“We’re all tired, and I appreciate it is a difficult time for all families, old and young, but we have to hold firm.

“We’re in this together.

“The virus has not gone away but we have proven as a society and as a hospital that with support we can cope.

“However, it takes individual and collective responsibility.”

She added: “We learned a lot from the first surge of the virus, and managing it comes down to some well proven measures.”

Ms Nugent stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks properly and in the appropriate settings, social distancing, good cough etiquite and limiting your social contacts.

For further information visit the hospital’s website, www.tuh.ie, or www.hse.ie.

Dublin is currently in Level 3 of the Framework for Restrictive Movement. Further details and guidelines on Level 3 can be found at www.gov.ie.

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