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Written by:
April 24, 2020

Dear colleagues,

Over the last couple of months, we have had to employ every possible resource available to us to rise to the challenge of this unprecedented public health emergency. It has been incredibly difficult for us all and yet we have seen the COVID-19 crisis act as a catalyst for many innovative practices and new ways of working across our health system. We know that the virus will be with us for a long time to come and as we look ahead to the recovery phase of the pandemic it is vital that we sustain and embed the initiatives which have served us well during this crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted the important role of an Academic Health Science System - the strong links between the Mater, St Vincent’s and UCD have already shown how innovation and solutions to problems can develop from this relationship.

Below are this week’s IEHG updates:

• In relation to the challenges currently facing Nursing Homes, we are working with our hospitals to redeploy staff and are particularly cognisant of the pressures being faced in the Dublin area. Nursing and HCA staff from some of our Dublin hospitals have been redeployed to assist our colleagues in residential care settings north and south of Dublin city. The support that is being provided includes the provision of medical and nursing care to residents, education and training of staff in PPE, laboratory testing, outreach by ANPs and CNSs, and co-ordination and support of nursing and HCA staff. The Hospital Group is aware that our acute hospitals are already challenged but they have demonstrated great support and flexibility in assisting the Nursing Home sector.  

• Our post-acute COVID rehabilitation planning is progressing well. 20 rehabilitation beds have now been opened in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan and recruitment continues for our two dedicated specialist post-acute COVID rehabilitation facilities in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park and St. Mary’s, Mullingar. St Mary’s in the Phoenix Park will be an important resource for the whole of Dublin and we see the establishment of these units as an extremely valuable development as we enter the next phase of this public health crisis.

• 193 patient transfers have now taken place via the IEHG Lifeline Ambulance Service which was set up in response to COVID-19 on 21 March. I wish to personally thank the Lifeline team who have been amazing in delivering this service to our hospitals.

• Our Chief Academic Officer (CAO), Prof Tim Lynch, is holding weekly Zoom meetings with the other Hospital Group CAOs or their equivalents across the country (UL, NUIG, Children’s Hospital, UCC, RCSI and Trinity) to find ways of working together on COVID research projects, reagent production issues and ways to improve staff training around COVID. These meetings have been very useful for all the universities involved and they have also had input from those leading the COVID testing scheme from within the HSE.

• With regard to the diagnostic testing backlog, our academic partner UCD assisted greatly in the recruitment of the 80 staff involved in the setting-up the molecular lab at Enfer. The university provided reagents for the PCR of COVID-19 and for the transport medium for the swab, with the capability to provide more if needed. Prof Liam Gallagher of the Conway Institute will chair the National Committee addressing the backlog. UCD has also assisted in sourcing reagents (eg; extraction kits) from industry (Roche, Abbott).  

• In relation to research, the All Ireland Infectious Disease Cohort Study (Prof Paddy Mallon, UCD/SVUH) has expanded to include other hospitals across the country. The SPRINT SARI ICU study (Prof Alistair Nicholl) is also capturing COVID-19 patients across Ireland. The CAOs across the Groups all agree that a national collection of COVID-19 samples over the disease course would be of major benefit.

• IEHG is delighted to continue working with the RCSI in assisting and expanding Physician Associate (PA) roles within our Group. Just recently, Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan placed three Physician Associate (PA) graduates. The PAs are playing a key role supporting COVID work and I would like to thank Pauline Joyce, RCSI Academic Director, MSc Physician Associate Studies, for her leadership in the development of these important roles.

• In terms of procurement, we continue to work with the national system to secure the necessary resources of PPE and to ensure an adequate supply for our hospitals.

• The Sunday Independent published a piece last weekend on the new IsoPod laboratory at Regional Hospital Mullingar and how it is leading in the fight to combat COVID-19. RHM Senior Medical Scientist Mark McKeown and IEHG Consultant Pathologist Prof Conor O’Keane were interviewed for the article by Wayne O'Connor, which also referenced the more than 10,000 tests which have to date been carried out by our Group.

Keep up your great work and stay safe.

Regards,

Mary Day, IEHG CEO