IF you’ve been tested for Covid-19 in West Cork, then you are all too aware of how daunting the whole process is.
But you also know just how incredible the frontline professionals manning the test centre in Ballinacarriga are, and how well they look after everyone.
Up and running for over a year now, the test centre, at the Ballinacarriga Community Centre just outside Dunmanway, has been home to Dr Emer Shanley and her team, where they have prepared and supported hundreds through the testing procedure.
‘We are incredibly fortunate to have such an amazing site for the test centre here in Ballinacarriga,’ Dr Emer told The Southern Star.
‘From the very beginning, the people here in Ballincarriga have shown huge community spirit and have helped us with anything we need.’
When the team first arrived at the community hall they knew that they had to create a safe and welcoming centre that was also efficient and fit for purpose.
‘The possibility of having contracted Covid-19 is, of course, for all an extremely difficult time and people are always anxious when they are sent to be tested,’ Dr Emer said.
‘It is our job to reassure them and to make the experience as easy as possible while ensuring that everybody is well looked after before and after the test.’
The frontline staff at the centre have gathered from across West Cork and come from various medical disciplines within the health service.
‘We have a great team of specialists from the dental, nursing, and senior care sectors, and speech and language therapists who are practising right across the region, here in Ballinacarriga,’ Dr Emer said.
‘We want to put people at ease. For example, with such a diverse set of skills here we have been able to create a site-specific storyboard for children so that we can show them and explain to them what the test involves.’
For the staff at the test centre, the last year has been a completely new experience, very far from their regular careers in the health service.
‘There have been some very busy days and stressful times when we have had to call in staff at very short notice,’ Dr Emer said.
‘Nothing is a problem for the team and everybody has been exceptional, working hard to ensure an ethos of kindness and efficiency, and of course a West Cork welcome at all times.’
‘Of course for most of us, who are used to working in various health centres, we had to get used to working out in the elements, rain, hail or shine.’
Dr Emer is rightly proud of the team spirit displayed by the staff, a spirit which was recently showcased when the team got together to perform their version of ‘Jerusalema’.
‘We saw the dance as a perfect opportunity to, not only build on our team spirit, but to also show how important it is to wash your hands properly,’ said Dr Emer, who this week has moved to co-ordinate the new vaccination cetnre in Clonakilty .
‘We all came into work early to practise the dance for about two weeks before we recorded the video. It was great fun and we hope we got the message out there as well.’
For now Dr Emer’s team will continue the testing for as long as it is needed. ‘This pandemic is not over yet, but with the vaccine rollout there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will all get there.’
‘I want to thank the fantastic hall committee here in Ballinacarriga and the management team.
‘And all the other support staff, from the couriers, the maintenance crews and of course the staff who are working so hard.’
‘The team will be here in Ballinacarriga for as long as is needed.’