UL Arena begins preparations to house 164 sickbeds for Covid-19 patients

ul arena sickbeds

Outside view of the UL Sports Arena.

UL Arena begins preparations to house 164 sickbeds for Covid-19 patients

By I Love Limerick Correspondent Sophia DiBattista

Preparations are being made at the University of Limerick’s Sports Arena to house 164 sickbeds for patients either suffering or recovering from Covid-19. This recuperation station will be a step-down and rehabilitation facility, and the construction will begin after Easter. The beds are set to be located on the main floor space within the arena.

The UL Arena is a huge space comprising of an indoor running track, indoor pool, weight room and boxing station. In addition, there are locker rooms, showers and a sauna. 

Chief academic officer of UL Hospital Group and the Vice Dean of Health Sciences Professor Paul Burke spoke to Aine Fitzgerald of the Limerick Leader about the plans for this rehabilitation facility, saying, “We would be looking at dealing with patients who are in the recovery phase who have recovered maybe from a bad chest infection or may even have been on a ventilator in intensive care and are very weak and need to go to an area to rest and have focused rehabilitation.”

“You may have another group then who aren’t too sick but maybe are still Covid positive and probably can’t go home. We would have a portion of this area cordoned off for that group of patients. We would have it divided into an area for Covid positive patients and the rest would be for Covid negative patients,” Prof Burke added.

“Essentially it is a fairly basic layout of beds in what we would call the old traditional Nightingale wards-just a row of beds. So you have a row of 10 beds and 10 beds opposite them and then those 10 beds are back-to-back with another 10 beds in another ward. So you would have a ward, if you like, of 20 beds. They will be set up partitioned,” Prof Burke said.

ul arena sickbeds

Inside the UL Sports Arena, where the sickbeds will be set up.

In order to continue the HSE’s advice on social distancing, the beds will be separated enough to prevent the spread of any infection. Lockers will be added to this layout for patients to store their belongings in. Since there are already showers and toilet facilities around the gym, one of the main additions to this ward will be extra hand washing basins for people to use.

According to Prof Burke, the most difficult part of this plan is securing enough staff members to work in the facility if numbers of patients continue to grow. He said, “We would envisage starting it with a smaller number, particularly focusing on the rehab facility, but if we manage to get more staff and there is a need for more staff and there is a further strong call for help because there is such pressure on the system then we would be able to ramp it up and provide more beds.” 

“When we set about planning this, it was St Patrick’s Day actually I think was the first day we went out to look at the area, the figures were predicting that by the end of the month. the Taoiseach had said there would be 15,000 cases by the end of the month. So we are still working based on that model and although the numbers are lower, clearly the anticipation is that this is going to be a marathon and not a sprint and so we are still going to have numbers slowly building up on a continual basis,” Prof Burke said.

Prof Burke encouraged anyone who wants to get involved and become a staff member to do so, saying, “We are putting out a general call (for staff) and that’s gone out this week. We are looking at it I suppose long term as well particularly in relation to trained staff, that if we are able to get these people in now there will be jobs for these people down the line.”

Even student nurses can help with the cause. Prof Burke explained that they “are also obviously hoping to attract back as many of our own student nurses as possible because the directive from the Department of Health was that the universities should release all the health/science students from their clinical placements and allow them to apply for these healthcare assistant posts. They would obviously work alongside fully qualified nurses but if they are in their last year of training or second last year of training they would already be quite well orientated and skilled towards that so they would be working as healthcare assistants but with a strong nursing background so to speak.” ul arena sickbeds

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