WEST Cork is gearing up for a surge in Covid-19 cases, following an announcement that Bantry is to get an assessment hub at the town’s new primary care centre.
The predicted spike could happen this week, or next, but many – who have already been diagnosed with Covid-19 – can expect to be clinically assessed at the new hub.
Patients will meet a GP face-to-face at the new facility and –based on a scoring system – will either be treated by the GP, be referred to an isolation unit, or be sent to an acute hospital.
A source told The Southern Star: ‘This is going to be a great, dedicated facility that will assess the needs of each patient.’
If the patients are above a certain score – a system that takes heart rate, temperature, and other factors into account – they will be sent to an acute hospital or isolation centre.
Although the Bantry hub has been described as a welcome development, concerns are still being expressed over the amount, and the quality, of personal protection equipment (PPE) available nationally. A statement from the HSE’s Cork Kerry Community Healthcare, this week, rejected claims – made in last week’s Southern Star – that staff at West Cork’s only testing centre near Dunmanway did not have access to enough recommended personal protective equipment, such as gowns, goggles and facemasks. The HSE also rejected claims that the centre had to close due to lack of testing kits.
The statement added: ‘We are up to date on referrals for our centre at Dunmanway. As of Wednesday April 8th, referrals are being seen within 24 hours. If the centre is closed at any point it is because the centre is up to date on referrals. There is no other reason for any temporary closure. As of Wednesday April 8th, the waiting time for tests in this area is under 24 hours – thanks to the huge efforts of the staff involved. This may change from day to day, but we are carrying out tests of people referred as quickly as possible.’
Management of Cork Kerry Community Healthcare also thanked the hardworking staff at the Dunmanway test centre and said it is working to have the assessment hub in Bantry open next week.
At present, there are between 10 and 14 healthcare workers carrying out about 100 tests each day at the Dunmanway facility.
Meanwhile, local GPs have commented on the varying length of time it takes to get the lab results of the swab tests. One doctor said: ‘It depends on who is being tested. If it is an inpatient, it could be as quick as 24 hours.’ But the same doctor noted that the increased testing capacity at CUH has ‘helped a lot.’
Another GP said tests on the seriously ill and health workers are being done ‘over the course of a weekend’ but tests on someone who is either young or has milder symptoms could take two weeks or even longer. The GP described ‘the set-up’ – the administration of the system – as being ‘excellent’ and added: ‘The referrals are made online and that is working efficiently.’ But another GP said two of her patients were tested on March 20th, but by Monday, 18 days later, still hadn’t got a result.
In Cork city, the Mercy University Hospital is also gearing up to deal with the expected surge in the number of Covid-19 cases, and has launched a fundraising appeal to buy healthcare equipment and supplies at www.mercyfundraising.ie/covid-19-appeal.
Cork has the second highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, and Dr Chris Luke, a former healthcare worker who has come back to help at the frontline of this crisis, said the surge in the coming days and weeks ‘will put huge pressure on beds, space, equipment and staff.’
He said: ‘Many patients will need treatment in our Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and we will need to purchase additional ICU Profiling Beds as well as the additional medical supplies.’
Dr Luke said public donations would help ‘bridge the gap between our ICU and the rest of the hospital, allowing us to provide the earliest, most advanced critical care we can.’
The donations will be used to purchase the necessary medical equipment from IV pumps to syringes and portable suction machines to help patients with their breathing.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Cork Kerry Community Healthcare declined to name any individual residential facilities where there are outbreaks or confirmed cases of Covid-19.
But The Southern Star believes there is at least one community healthcare facility in the region where a number of healthcare workers were sent home to self-isolate, following contact with patients who are reported to have Covid-19.