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Written by:
April 17, 2020

Dear colleagues,

This week has brought home to us the unique challenges faced by our healthcare workers on the front line of this crisis. It was truly devastating to receive the news on Wednesday that two colleagues had passed away from St Luke’s General Hospital, Carlow/Kilkenny having contracted COVID-19. On behalf of the IEHG Senior Management team, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to all staff at the hospital and to the staff members’ family and friends.

While demand for critical care in our acute hospitals continues to be high, there are many positives to be drawn from what you have achieved over the last number of weeks. The pre-surge preparatory work that was completed across the Group and the exemplary leadership you have shown since have meant that our hospitals are managing this crisis, while continuing to deliver for our patients, in a way that should make us all proud. There is a long way to go and still many challenges to be overcome but I am confident that we can meet these together.

Below are this week’s IEHG updates:

• You will be aware that the national focus this week has very much been on the COVID clusters that have developed within Nursing Homes. As a Group we have been working closely with our community colleagues to support nursing homes in the fight against this virus. The support we have provided has included access to acute hospital geriatricians and senior nurses, testing, and advice on infection prevention and control, social distancing and PPE training. The community geriatrician teams on the north and south side are working well to assist with the management of the additional pressure. I have also met with the CHO heads in relation to staff redeployment. Our IEHG Staff Bank Manager has liaised with agencies to supply nurses, and CVs received for Group competitions are distributed to CHOs for nursing homes where appropriate. We will continue to work closely with our community colleagues to manage this crisis together.

• Planning for our post-acute COVID reablement and rehabilitation pathways continues. 24 generic rehabilitation beds will be opened in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan and we continue to work on the development of our two dedicated specialist post-acute COVID rehabilitation facilities in St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park and St. Mary’s, Mullingar. Working with our CHO partners, we are adopting a streamlined and integrated approach with primary and secondary care pathways, from admission to discharge and follow-up. Recruitment is currently taking place for both sites.

• Interviewing continues for our Staff Bank with processing of successful candidates in progress.

• I am delighted that we were able to open a new lab modular build in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan last week. Two additional modular builds have been approved by HSE Estates including a lab unit in Regional Hospital Mullingar and an injection suite in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear.

• In terms of procurement, we are working with the HSE to develop a streamlined process to support the appropriate distribution of PPE in line with the clinical need and requirements of each of our hospitals.

• IEHG laboratories continue to ramp up testing and to date our labs in the Mater, St Vincent’s, Regional Hospital Mullingar and Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan have processed over 10,000 tests. This includes in-house, external and community testing. Through collaboration with IEHG Procurement, HSE Procurement and the National Clinical Programme for Pathology we have now secured a steady supply of testing kits and swabs. The supply of reagents continues to be a challenge but this is monitored on a weekly basis by our IEHG Laboratory COVID-19 Working Group chaired by Prof Conor O’Keane.

• We understand the challenges that some staff are still facing regarding supports for childcare arrangements. Work is ongoing at a government level to find a solution as quickly as possible.

• With regard to staff accommodation, we continue to work with the HSE to support staff requirements for temporary accommodation in line with national criteria and I would like thank the local temporary accommodation site mangers who have been instrumental in this process.

As we all know, there is fantastic work happening across the system to ensure that the needs of patients are still being met during this challenging time. As an example, I would like to commend our colleagues in St Vincent’s University Hospital and St. Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire who have this week extended a service for patients in the catchment area of their hospitals who may have fallen or are experiencing frailty-related problems. Upon referral by their GP, the Emergency Services or a Nursing Home, these patients no longer need to come to an ED but will now be able to avail of a home service visit including a full medical and targeted functional assessment by a doctor and occupational therapist. The service operates seven days a week from 8am-6pm.

Stay safe.

Regards,

Mary Day, IEHG CEO