Covid-19 may change Portlaoise hospital forever

Medical and nursing leader praise staff for adapting

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

coronavirus covid-19

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Portlaoise hospital has endured tumultuous times in recent years and perhaps the often forced upheaval may have been a blessing in disguise when the Covid-19 storm swept in.

Its nursing and medical leadership are anxious to compliment the staff on how they have adapted, but they are also keen to tell the public that a lot has changed on the Dublin Road and the service has changed substantially and perhaps forever.

Extensive changes have taken place which required a huge amount of effort but also flexibility.

Director of Nursing Sandra McCarthy complimented everybody.

“Staff have been absolutely fantastic. There was no ask that they didn’t rise to. Everybody pulled together. It was all about the frontline and how we can all work together,” she said.

Ms McCarthy said the changes were led by a COVID-Core Group Committee. It looked at every aspect of the hospital's service and led to radical change.

There are now two Emergency Departments (ED/A&E). Both required facility reconfiguration and staffing changes.

The Intensive Care Unit was relocated and expanded so that it could accommodate more patients and isolate some.

She said staff also had to get up to speed very quickly not just on the virus but also in other areas where upskilling was required to work in a new department due to changing needs.

“It's a new virus, there are new ways of delivering services and delivering care, so it was really important that we were up to date,” she said.

The changes were made while at the same time planing to retain services for non-Covid-19 patients. Yet, protocols have had to be built into all departments from testing to the wearing of facemasks to ensure maternity, paediatrics and other parts of the hospital were kept on track.

Dr Connaughton believes that after an 'eerie' lull due to fear of Covid-19 infection, patient numbers are beginning to rise.

He says the way care has been delivered heretofore in hospitals will change for many patients.

"Over the last couple of months, the emphasis has been on Covid but I think that's definitely changing. But you never again, I think, going to see a situation where you have 30 or 40 people sitting in a waiting room to go into the clinic or general practice. Social separation is here for the long haul and it is going to have profound effects on how we run (the hospital),” he said.

MORE FROM Dr Connaughton and Ms McCarthy in this week's Leinster Express.