As the country navigates its way tentatively through new landscapes formed by the Coronavirus, Kilkenny’s Aut Even Hospital, has managed to resume ‘business as usual’, albeit with significant adjustments.
Aut Even, like all other private hospitals, agreed a contingency service arrangement with the HSE earlier this year as the country braced itself for its unpredictable first wave of Covid 19. It was a difficult time for staff when all private admissions ceased overnight. Ann-Marie Garbutt, Director of Nursing at Aut Even, described the unprecedented situation. “We had a massive pool of skills here that were no longer being utilised. So, we redeployed staff voluntarily, which wasn’t easy for them at the time. Nurses went to the public hospital setting, the nursing home setting and to public health. Our remaining nurses then looked after medical transfer patients from St. Luke’s Hospital. They helped with the transfer of the Oncology Unit on site and assisted with urgent endoscopy patients. It really was a united front between ourselves and the HSE”.
The Hospital, which boasts over 40 Consultants, had to respond quickly and safely to changing national guidelines. “Our culture of patient and staff safety has always been paramount. The day to day challenge for us is to stay on top of the national safety guidelines at all times. It is, however, one that we are more than adept to deal with”, says Garbutt.
Since the recommencement of private healthcare, there has been a steady flow of patients to Aut Even. Consultants are committed to reducing any of the backlog that came from the hospital’s partnership with the HSE and nursing staff are showing flexibility and adaptability in effectively managing patients’ needs. Aisling McEvoy, Clinical Nurse Manager, admits that some patients are anxious about stepping back into a hospital setting. However, she believes that, “once a patient comes in, our protocols and processes tend to ease any worries they may have. Everybody works together here. Porters, housekeepers, administrators, nurses; they all just want to keep the patient and each other safe.” The fact that the hospital can offer individual rooms to all of its in-patients is a massive help from an operational and safety perspective.
New safety measures are in place throughout the Hospital. Capacity reductions have been implemented in all waiting areas. An all mask policy is in operation across all zones. All patients are pre-screened. Out-patients and in-patients are streamlined. Every in-patient admitted to the hospital is swabbed, as are specific surgical patients. Staff are screened twice daily and a rigorous contact tracing policy is in place. The organisation has worked with its surgeons, anaesthetists and infection control team to map out all of its operational processes. It holds daily operational briefing sessions so that it can constantly review and monitor its processes in line with the national framework and best practice guidelines.
The approaching winter months remain uncertain. Garbutt, in anticipating the challenges ahead said that she recognised that everybody has their anxieties. “Everybody has their own ‘covid story’. Covid never leaves you, it’s with you in work; it’s with you at home. And that is definitely a challenge for those working directly with patients” she says. It will be up to the team at Aut Even to continue to work together to ensure that they remain responsive and dynamic in their approach to dealing with a national health crisis that is certain to be with us for some time to come.
Aut Even Hospital is encouraging anyone with concerns or questions about their upcoming clinical or surgical appointments to contact them on 056 7775275 or visit their website autevenhospital.ie for further information.