Older Persons Assessment Centre at UHL is located beside the main Emergency Department.
The intention of the OPAC is to avoid admitting over 75s to the main hospital
By I Love Limerick correspondent Stella Gordon
An Older Persons Assessment Centre (OPAC) will open for those aged over 75 at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
This will act as an emergency department for elderly people, to cut waiting times and admissions, along with reducing trolley figures. Prof Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group said, “I think the over 75s ED is a good start, we’re very glad to say that we’re opening that next Monday.”
The news comes after Stephen Donnelly TD announced the commencement of work on the 96-bed block at UHL on October 13.
The OPAC will open beside the current Emergency Department at the hospital. The OPAC is to staff 25 people, including two emergency department consultants. UHL hope to eventually staff 78 people in the Centre. The Emergency Department is being opened with the intent of avoiding admitting over 75s to the main hospital, and to cut down on waiting times.
Prof Colette Cowan, CEO of UL Hospitals Group commented, “The idea of the over 75s ED is that we bring patients in that need assessment. If you’re very sick you may end up in Resus and need treatment there, if you need admission, you’ll be brought to a zone in the ED for admission.The idea is to assess them to discharge, not assess to admit.”
In April of this year, the average waiting time for over 75s at the Emergency Department in UHL was 22 hours and 12 minutes.
This is another step UHL are taking in order to relieve the enormous pressure that is on its staff, after the consultancy group Deloitte published a 130-page report which found the hospital ‘not fit for purpose,’ in September 2022. The report concluded that UHL requires 302 extra inpatient beds by 2036. A 96 bed-block is currently being built to increase acute bed capacity. Four new inpatient wards were completed over the course of the pandemic, bringing the total number of new beds to 108 since 2020 (98 inpatient beds, and 10 critical beds).
The hospital staff are bracing themselves for a long and difficult winter on their already over-stressed system. Prof Colette Cowan added, “This year, we are on course to see a record number of patients presenting to our Emergency Department. As the population grows and rapidly ages, demand continues to outstrip capacity. We continue to work with the HSE nationally and with community colleagues on internal processes, integrated care pathways and on hospital avoidance measures. But increasing capacity is fundamental to resolving chronic overcrowding at UHL.”
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