Improvements at Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore will enhance patient care

Express Reporter

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Tullamore Hospital

Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore

Efforts are underway to address recent pressures at the Emergency Department at Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore.

The plan outlines a number of developments which have been introduced or are currently underway at the hospital. All initiatives are intended to increase treatment capacity, expand services and improve patient care at the hospital.

Tullamore Hospital currently treats over 70,000 outpatients, nearly 34,000 day cases and 32,000 emergency presentations in 2015. The Hospital is the regional centre for a number of key specialities including orthopaedics, renal, oncology, ears, nose and throat and rheumatology for the midlands region of Offaly, Laois, Longford and Westmeath. €84 million has been allocated to the hospital for service provision in 2016.

There is an almost 5% increase in ED activity year to date at Tullamore Hospital which is in line with the national Emergency Department trends. Compared to last year (up to the end of March) there is an overall increase of 6.9% in the number of people attending Emergency Departments across the country.

Every effort is being made to improve the patient experience in Tullamore Emergency Department.  By its very nature emergency departments are busy environments and staff are working very hard to ensure those most in need of care are seen in a timely manner.

There is a number of measures being undertaken by the Hospital to address this issue on a daily basis and these include the opening of additional beds where there is capacity, day-of-surgery admissions, working with community health colleagues to enable proactive discharge planning, and access to homecare packages and long term care as required.

Notwithstanding, it is acknowledged that there still remains significant pressures including increased patient demands, inpatient bed capacity and recruitment of staff. However, the Hospital is hopeful that the following key developments will contribute to an improved overall hospital performance for 2016.

These include:

New MRI Unit – Work on a new MRI Unit incorporating ultrasound rooms and consulting rooms commenced in May. The Unit is expected to be completed during Q2, 2017. The project represents a €5 million investment, which includes a new MRI machine costing €1.9 million

Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) – MRHT has opened a new AMAU within the existing Emergency Department to improve patient flow and to ensure faster patient discharges, where appropriate. The AMAU is already achieving results. The AMAU has already seen and treated 300 patients, who might otherwise have had to wait in the ED for treatment

The successful acquisition of second CT scanner – A second CT scanner has recently been procured by the hospital management following approval by the Estates Department

The Scott Building Redevelopment  - The redeveloped Scott Building was opened on a phased basis earlier this year and provides community mental health services, a centre for education, library, on call accommodation and administrative offices. The development includes a medical academic facility which has enhanced the ability of the Hospital to attract high-quality healthcare staff

Short-stay ward – Planning is currently underway for the development of a new short stay unit at the hospital and this is subject to 2017 service planning

Recruitment  - Conversion of agency staff to MRHT staff posts across all areas of the hospital including radiology and physiotherapy, in addition approval for 5.5 extra nurses was secured in recent days

A Virtual Fracture Clinic - The Hospital’s Orthopaedic Unit is the first in Ireland to introduce this innovative model of treating minor orthopaedic injuries. Patients with some minor orthopaedic injuries, can  be reviewed and treated virtually. Following initial attendance at the hospital’s emergency department, patient X-rays are subsequently reviewed by an orthopaedic consultant. The patient, after discharge, then receives a phone consultation at their home to advise of care/follow up treatment requirements. The model delivers a number of significant benefits such as reducing the number of hospital appointments required by patients and allowing patients get the necessary medical advice without having to leave their home

Management – The hospital’s management structures have also been strengthened in recent months with a number of key appointments including a new General Manager, a permanent Director of Nursing, a Quality Manager and a Clinical Risk Manager

Commenting on activity at the hospital, Orlagh Claffey General Manager of MRHT noted: "There are a lot of very significant and positive developments happening at our hospital. It’s an exciting time for the hospital and a mark of confidence in its staff that the hospital continues to expand its services.  Of course like all hospitals across Ireland we have been challenged by an increasing number of patients attending our Emergency Department.  This winter alone saw an increase of 5% in the numbers attending MRHT ED. In addition, we treated a growing number of patients with respiratory issues and also experienced a very long flu season which ran to the end of April. Notwithstanding, delivering high, quality care to the Midlands region is our priority; the ongoing investment in the hospital, its services and staffing allows us to realise this objective. Our immediate focus is now on developing the new MRI Unit at the hospital, which has just commenced initial works. In addition we are working with the Hospital Group and the SDU to improve patient flow and this is a very welcomed engagement for the hospital which will over time benefit our patients," added Ms. Claffey.

Trevor O’Callaghan, Chief Operating Officer for the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said, “The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group in conjunction with the management team at Tullamore hospital is working with the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) and Clinical Care Programmes to further review pathway and process improvements with particular emphasis and business planning to address the increased capacity needs for the hospital into the future. We are committed to improving the patient experience in Tullamore Hospital and wish to acknowledge the significant work of the staff at the hospital who on a daily basis is addressing these significant pressures.”