SIXTY-EIGHT staff members at Letterkenny University Hospital were diagnosed with Covid-19 last week, Saolta has confirmed.
Records from last Friday confirm that a further 54 staff members were off-duty because they were symptomatic or a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.
A Covid-19 outbreak is currently having a major impact at LUH, where there are 38 confirmed cases of the virus among patients (as of 8pm Tuesday).
Management is this week carrying out widespread surveillance testing among all staff. Up to 40% of staff at the hospital have been tested as part of the control measures so far.
“While we are making every effort to ensure that urgent and time critical procedures can proceed, the outbreak is having a significant impact on the provision of elective, day case and outpatient services,” a statement from Saolta said.
Patients are being contacted directly by telephone if their appointment or procedure is deferred, but patients who do not receive a telephone call from the hospital are being told to attend at their appointment time.
Sean Murphy, Hospital Manager commented: “Given the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community in Donegal and the high number of confirmed cases among our staff we have decided to implement a hospital-wide COVID-19 screening programme – this will apply to staff who are not currently being screened as part of the current outbreak management process.
“We believe that this is a really important measure to help to manage this outbreak and in particular it will help us identify staff who may not be experiencing any symptoms but may have COVID-19. This screening programme is voluntary, however we hope all of our staff will participate in it and help us reduce the incidence of COVID-19 among our staff and protect our patients.
“The process of contacting staff and arranging for testing began this week. We believe it is a very important step in our on-going efforts to end this outbreak. It is important to note that we have had on-going staff screening programmes in place over the last number of weeks but these were until now, targeting staff in wards and departments associated with the outbreak. We are now extending our testing hospital-wide in an effort to potentially identify staff who may have no symptoms but may have the COVID-19 infection.”
Mr Murphy said that recent months have been “very challenging” for staff in Letterkenny University Hospital as the hospital manages outbreaks of COVID-19 amongst staff.
He added: “I want to acknowledge the commitment and support of the staff in LUH in maintaining patient care at this time and I want to assure you that we are doing all we can to get through this as quickly as we can, including recruiting additional staff at the hospital. We hope that all of the measures we are implementing will enable us to return to providing a full range of services to our patients as quickly as possible.
“We know the incidence of COVID-19 is very high in the community in County Donegal and on behalf of LUH I cannot emphasise enough how critical it is for all of us to follow the HSE’s public health advice,” Mr Murphy concluded.
The following outpatient clinics are proceeding at LUH and patients should attend their appointments at the time stated in their letter:
- Fracture Clinic
- Antenatal Clinic
- Breast Clinic
- Oncology Clinic
- PMB Clinic
- Haematology Clinic
- Paediatrics Clinic
Patients are being reminded to attend their appointment alone unless the support of a family member or carer is essential; to wear a face-covering; and arrive at their appointment time.