Health and care services

St. John’s: A hospital with rich past, delivering for the future

St. John’s might be among Limerick’s and the Ireland’s oldest hospitals, but it very much has a clear plan for a vibrant future at the heart of mid-west healthcare.

That future has been painted in a five-year strategy for St. John’s – a member of the UL Hospitals Group (ULHG) – that will enable it to expand the excellent care synonymous with it for many generations and invest in its people and patients, including through a new bed block extension which will bring the total number of beds from 99 to 150.

The Strategy is a roadmap that will enable St. John’s to play a key role in addressing capacity requirements in the Mid-West and was developed by the Board following deep consultation with all staff, its partners at the University of Limerick Hospital Group, UL, GPs, St. John’s Hospital Patient Partnership Forum, and wider public.

It is built around the hospital’s vision of being a leading provider of healthcare services where innovation and excellence are at the heart of the patient experience. Critically, it addresses the necessary capacity requirement to tackle public waiting lists by accommodating a very significant proportion of the scheduled care work in the region.

Located in Limerick city centre, St. John’s is the only Model 2S (overnight surgical stays) hospital in the UHLG under the smaller hospital framework whereby more complex surgeries can be performed. Building upon its strength of a city centre hospital, St. John’s works geographically close to part the Group’s Model 4 hospital, with shared pathways operating between the two hospitals.

Among the strategy priorities identified in the consultation process are the development of a new modern facility complete with increased single ensuite rooms, greater access to services, development of services for the management of chronic diseases, and provision of seven-day injury unit services.

The strategy is both patient and people/staff centric but very much contingent on the delivery of the new, state-of-the-art in-patient bed facility that will take the hospital from a 99- to 150-bed hospital.

The new facility, in addition to new beds, will also deliver a safer patient environment, increased in-patient access, and provide an overall improvement in patient experience as well as staff working experience.

To validate the plan, St. John’s has, with support from the HSE, undertaken a Strategic Assessment Report and Preliminary Business Case. Work is already underway and, when completed, the reports will be submitted to the national HSE and Department of Health for review.

It is also intended that the reports will be presented at the national capital planning meeting in January 2024 to seek capital funding approval for the much-needed investment for the mid-west.

Furthermore, architects engaged by St. John’s are reviewing the current hospital building to see what enhancement works need to be carried out to ensure the new bed-block is supported by current services.

As CEO of the Hospital Emer Martin says: “Our plans emphasise the connections between the high-quality services we provide while working with our HSE partners to achieve better outcomes, more effectively.”

The CEO says that the hospital proposes to undertake a programme of building and clinical service developments that will greatly assist in speeding up and enhancing the delivery of care.

“With an emphasis on transformational change at local level, each element of our plan facilitates the upscaling of services to enhance overall service provision in Limerick and the mid-west. Our plan has a particular focus on scheduled care, clinical support and recovery services, and management of patients with chronic illness who require a step-up from community level care.

“There are important levers required to support the progress of each aspect of these developments: the biggest challenge being capital investment.”

Bishop Brendan Leahy, Board Chair, Stephen Donnelly TD, Minister for Health, and Emer Martin, CEO.

“With an emphasis on transformational change at local level, each element of our plan facilitates the upscaling of services to enhance overall service provision in Limerick and the mid-west.”

The condition survey of the hospital commissioned by the HSE in 2018 shows a clear and cogent case for serious capital investment in St. John’s Hospital. This five-facet survey report on the existing buildings outlines clearly their physical and functional deficiencies which strengthens the case for a new bed block.

“St. John’s has made an incredible contribution to healthcare in Limerick for almost two-and-a-half centuries and to this day delivers outstanding results. However, it has also been long since acknowledged that the facilities here are simply not fit for the purpose or the people; our exceptional people who come to work here every day and the patients that they give that exceptional care to. That, essentially, is what this strategy is all about, finding a way to deliver this outstanding care in a modern, high-tech hospital to more people across Limerick and the mid-west.

“So, by any measurement, except of course for the facility itself, St. John’s is a model hospital, and it makes absolute sense to not alone address the shortcomings in the existing hospital but, in doing so, give more people access to this standard of care in the mid-west. We have the capacity on the site to do this and in a region that clearly needs key solutions like this to help address pressures on the system. It is a win-win for healthcare in the mid-west, for the UL Hospitals Group and the people of the mid-west.”

Key features of St. John’s planned integrated service model:

  • an elective hospital of choice for acute medicine including specialist areas of respiratory, renal and endocrinology services;
  • to increase our medical assessment unit service to a seven-day service;
  • continue to operate the busiest Injury Unit service in the mid-west;
    develop rapid access clinics in our key speciality areas;
  • continue our role as a regional service provider for our Clinical Recovery and Support Unit (CRSU);
  • continue our role as a regional service provider for interventional pain treatments;
  • enhance our role as a regional service provider for endoscopy and bowel screening;
  • to further develop our elective surgery including extended stay surgery and our role as a key provider of diagnostic work: e.g., radiology;
  • enhance our role as an exemplary teaching hospital for multidisciplinary staff in conjunction with the University of Limerick and UL Hospitals; and
  • enhance our role as a leading provider of innovative solutions to healthcare problems in conjunction with the University of Limerick and UL Hospitals Group.


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