Plans are well underway for the development of a large Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) on the floor of the main gymnasium in the University of Limerick’s Sports Arena.
It is expected that this temporary facility will be kitted out to accommodate between 120 and 164 patients, depending on staffing, on the basis of a Health Service Executive template in line with a similar one planned for City West in Dublin.
The UL Hospitals’ Group estimates it will cost approximately €560,000 for design and build, including mechanical and electrical works, which does not include equipping and staffing costs.
This is a joint initiative between the University of Limerick and UL Hospitals’ Group, who are working together to ensure that work will get underway with a week.
Once work gets underway it is envisaged that this new facility will be built in four weeks.
The HSE has issued an open invitation for all qualified health professionals to make themselves available as quickly as possible.
In total, 283.14 whole-time equivalent staff are proposed including medical, nursing, allied health, administrative and general support. This figure is subject to change.
If the facility operates to full capacity, it will require up to 95 healthcare assistants, 50 nurses, 17 physiotherapists, five dieticians and a team of doctors in an ideal world.
Based on the concept of a field hospital, this ICF is a temporary structure that is put in place in the midst of a public health emergency.
It will operate as part of the overall UL Hospitals’ Group so health care staff who want to work in this facility are advised to sign up as quickly as possible for induction and some training, if this is deemed necessary.
In an interview with the Clare Champion, Professor Paul Burke revealed six or seven rows of beds and another twenty piped for oxygen to deal with a sicker group of patients, who become unwell while they are in UL and may have to be transferred back to University Hospital Limerick.
Professor Burke also acknowledged oxygen may be needed for patients who are stable but require additional oxygen while they are recovering.
It is also anticipated that provision will be made for some palliative care beds for some patients.
The consultant vascular surgeon confirmed the ICF will not have any intensive care or high dependency beds as it is categorised as a step down health facility.
“When UL president, Des Fitzgerald spoke about this concept first we looked at it as a post Covid rehabilitation set up. We looked at the fantastic resources in the university such as the Allied Science Healthy Faculty, the Medical School and the Nursing School.
“If we were able to provide a service to patients who are recovering after a bad bout of pneumonia or even if they had been in ICU or on a ventilator, these people need speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and dietician support.
“Hopefully, we will be able to bring in some of the skills mix that is in the university to help supplement what the HSE will be able to provide. The university have been very supportive and we are working with them to see what support they can give.
“Because it is a field hospital, it will not be staffed to the same level as a permanent hospital.
While this ICF will not be treating seriously ill Covid-19 patients, Professor Burke confirmed it may provide care for some Covid-19 patients who are not well enough to go home and need some step-down treatment.
He estimates up to 100 beds will be provided for patients who are Covid negative and are going through the rehabilitation process.
It is expected one area of the sports arena will be cordoned off to deal with Covid-19 patients.