The University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has enforced “an escalation of visiting restrictions” in order to “manage an outbreak of Covid-19 across four inpatient wards”.
This comes as the hospital tries to manage the highest number of Covid patients and most patients on trolleys compared to other hospitals across the State.
Currently, UHL has 42 Covid patients, six of which are in its Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or High Dependency Unit (HDU). The hospital also has 27 suspected Covid cases among patients.
A UHL spokesperson said that “as a precautionary measure, and following a meeting of the Hospital Crisis Management Team this Tuesday, visiting restrictions have now been extended to all inpatient wards” as well as at its Emergency Department, Acute Surgical Assessment Unit, and Acute Medical Assessment Unit.
“We regret any inconvenience this ban on routine visiting causes for patients and their loved ones,” said the hospital spokesman.
“Our outbreak control team is reviewing the situation daily and hospital management has decided it is now necessary to impose these measures in the interests of patient safety and keeping essential services open for all our patients.”
They added that “all appropriate infection control precautions are being followed to minimise the risk of spreading infection among staff and patients within our health facilities, and also within the wider community”.
There are exceptions to the visiting ban, which allows parents visiting their children, and people assisting vulnerable or “confused patients”, and “compassionate” visits, including patients “who are critically unwell or at end of life”.
“All these exemptions are limited to one person per patient only. In cases where these exemptions apply, we strongly recommend that members of the public are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before visiting UHL to minimise any risks to our patients and to visitors themselves,” advised the spokesman.
They also appealed for people “not to visit their relatives/loved ones outdoors on the grounds of the hospital as this can also present a Covid-19 transmission risk”.
The hospital is also trying to manage “record volumes of patients attending its Emergency Department”, as well as 81 patients on trolleys and waiting for a bed in its overcrowded Emergency Department and on wards.
The hospital’s bed capacity is under strain with only two general beds available, and only one intensive care bed free, according to figures published by the HSE.
A UHL spokesman said its total inpatient bed capacity currently stands at 531, including 28 critical care beds, of which 12 are in the ICU and 16 are in the HDU.
The spokesman urged the public to avoid the Limerick Emergency Department unless “you are seriously injured or ill or are worried your life is at risk”.