Minister opens new developments at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital


Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly has officially opened the new developments at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital in Co. Limerick.

Among the developments Minister Donnelly toured on his visit to the hospital were the state-of-the-art Maigue Unit, which contains 24 single-room ensuite patient rooms and a €15m four-theatre operating suite with a new Sterile Services Department, reception, recovery areas and ancillary support spaces.

Minister Donnelly said, “This new €15m theatre suite and the modern, state-of-the-art ward complex represent a very timely and much-needed development both for Croom Orthopaedic Hospital and for UL Hospitals Group. For example, the theatre development here has enabled the establishment of an ambulatory trauma service, which sees the transfer of trauma patients from UHL to Croom for their surgery and recovery while also helping to free up capacity in UHL.”

“I also want to acknowledge the development of a new Pain Management Centre at Croom, which has been facilitated through the refurbishment and repurposing of the old theatres. This new centre is providing improved service to patients and is helping to significantly reduce waiting times for this crucial service.

“These developments in Croom underline my commitment to investing in modern, fit-for-purpose infrastructure that is critically important for the delivery of high-quality, safe care across our health system. They also highlight the integral role that specialist and smaller hospitals like Croom play to support the range of services provided by the wider Hospital Group.”

Developed as part of UL Hospitals Group’s nationally-funded response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and supported by the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust with a significant contribution from the JP McManus Pro-Am, the new facilities have helped to make the venerable hospital a beacon of surgical and nursing excellence with major benefits for patients in this region.

The developments have brought an increase in inpatient and outpatient activity across all disciplines in Croom, including orthopaedics, pain relief, and rheumatology, while the development of an ambulatory trauma service facilitates the transfer of trauma patients from University Hospital Limerick for surgery and recovery. The new theatres also assist with the management of waiting lists by offering day-case vascular, maxillofacial and ENT surgery – specialties which are new to Croom.

Along with the doubling of theatre capacity, the number of consultant surgeons working out of Croom Orthopaedic Hospital has doubled since the start of the pandemic. Croom is today handling a significant increase in activity. From 2019 and 2022 there has been:

  • Orthopaedics:
    • 18% increase in inpatient activity (3,470 cases in 2022)
    • 26% increase in outpatient activity (11,685 cases in 2022)
  • Rheumatology:
    • 9% increase in inpatient activity (826 cases last year)
    • 5% increase in outpatient activity (1,708 cases last year)

In waiting lists, there has been a particular focus on patients facing the longest waits. Croom is currently ahead of the National Waiting List Action Plan 2023 target of 90% of all patients waiting less than 9 months for an inpatient or day case procedure. Croom is also on track to achieve the national targets for outpatient waiting lists set out in this year’s national plan.

Data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund shows that in the three years to the end of 2022 – covering the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic – the orthopaedic outpatient waiting list at Croom reduced by 34% and rheumatology outpatients by 68%. This is in spite of a significant growth in outpatient referrals, with have increased by about 200 per month in orthopaedics alone.

The hospital’s Pain Management Centre is making a significant difference for patients in the region. Pain management day case activity increased from 874 in 2019 to 1,377 in 2022 (58%), while outpatient activity over the same period expanded (223%) from 351 to 1,169. The hospital said projected figures for the service indicate continued growth this year, with 744 day cases and 1,245 outpatient cases to the end of May.

Based in the refurbished former theatres and old St Mary’s Ward at the hospital, the Croom Pain Management Centre is marked by a growing multi-disciplinary team and revised process that during the service’s first 18 months of operation, reduced overall wait times between referral and review from 49 months to 60 weeks, and intervention wait lists from 60 weeks to 12 weeks.

Croom has also seen a significant increase in staffing, with 80% growth between December 2020 and April 2023 (from 173 to 312 WTE) across all staff categories, including medicine, nursing, health and social care professionals, administration, general support and patient & client care.

Prof. Brian Lenehan, Chief Clinical Director, UL Hospitals Group, and a practising consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Croom, said, “This substantial redevelopment of Croom Orthopaedic Hospital arose out of the global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supported by Government and the HSE, the staff in Croom stood up to that challenge. Today, Croom is a greatly transformed hospital that is respectful of its proud heritage but is also forward-looking as it expands services to patients and grows its workforce.

Prof. Lenehan paid tribute to HSE Capital & Estates and to the design team – Clancy Construction, Reddy Architects, Kevin Bartley, and Don O’Malley – for delivering a project of such high specification to a rapid timeline and within budget. The project, Prof Lenehan said, would not have been achieved without the enormous support of the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust and the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am.

Declan Madden, Chairperson, Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust, said, “The Board of Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust are delighted to see these new developments at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital come to fruition and to have been in a position to contribute to the development of the Theatre Suites, ancillary areas and the new Day Ward element for the benefit of all patients. The Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust contribution was made possible due to the generous support of the JP McManus Pro-Am.

Prof Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said, “The transformation of Croom Orthopaedic Hospital was completed as a rapid-build at a time of national crisis and it is a credit to everybody involved that this hospital was able to play so important a role in our pandemic response and is now facilitating the rollout of national clinical programmes in trauma and orthopaedics. As the age profile of our population increases, demand for orthopaedic services is growing rapidly. To meet this demand, we have recruited additional consultants and support staff, introduced new surgical techniques and procedures and expanded theatre capacity at Croom, increasing activity while reducing our waiting lists.”