Fears that those who are self-isolating could fall ill and then go unchecked

March 23rd, 2020 10:30 PM

By Emma Connolly

One of the protective screens in place at Cleary's Pharmacy in Skibbereen.

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A BANDON GP said she’s concerned that Covid-19 cases who are self isolating, could deteriorate and become life-threateningly ill without being detected.

Dr Mary Roycroft, of Millbrook Medical Centre, fears that this is the next phase of the crisis that doctors will be faced with.

Millbrook Medical Centre, like clinics everywhere, has experienced a surge in calls in recent days, although Dr Roycroft said she referred less than five people for testing one day earlier this week.

‘We are getting a lot of phone calls and while it is hugely stressful, everyone is doing the best they can and are working very well,’ the experienced GP said.

‘But my worry is that a certain percentage of those who test positive and self-isolate will become really sick, that they’ll become life-threateningly ill, and what’s the next step? Do they call an ambulance? Some will, and some won’t. Or do we check back, scrub up and go in, in full PPE (personal protective equipment)? I don’t even know if there’s enough of that,’ said Dr Roycroft.

‘Who is monitoring how they are doing? I referred four people for testing last Friday and I know that one was tested on 2am on Sunday, but I don’t know the results yet. It’s unchartered territory,’ she said (speaking on Tuesday).

Award-winning Castletownbere GP Dr Fiona Kelly said many patients were calling them and looking to get tested. The criteria for a doctor to refer for testing is a fever, plus/minus a respiratory problem, and must include a cough.

‘But what we’re saying to people is that there’s no point if they’re not showing symptoms. This could give them a false negative,’ she said.

The online referral system that medics are using to schedule tests for patients showing Covid-19 symptoms crashed due to the volume of users on its first morning of use, on Monday.

Dr Kelly said she understood there was a considerable backlog of people waiting for several days for the National Ambulance Service to get out to them to test them.

The HSE said the National Ambulance Service started testing in the community on March 5th, and to scale up that level of testing approximately 200 staff from across community healthcare organisations have been trained to date on the procedures for testing in the community.

In a statement to The Southern Star the HSE said: ‘In line with the plan to have community testing sites in 19 locations across all community healthcare organisations from the start of this week, four testing sites are now in operation in Cork and Kerry, with the first coming into operation late last week. There is a testing site in Kerry, one Cork city, one in West Cork and one in North Cork. Over 140 people were tested on Monday at these centres. The capacity of these sites is expected to increase significantly over the next few days as the processes become more streamlined.

‘To date, 24 nursing staff from Cork Kerry Community Healthcare have been trained to work alongside staff in the ambulance service to take swabs from those referred for a test by their GP. The HSE is continuously developing its systems to respond to the demand for testing and to allow this demand to be managed in a safe manner. At present the HSE is experiencing unprecedented demand on the system and we are working to ensure the system is in a position to manage this and projected demand going forward.’

The volume of calls to SouthDoc on Tuesday caused their phone lines to crash for a time. SouthDoc in Clonakilty has been locked up and is being kept sterile, along with other out-of-hours services in Cork, in case they’re required to deal with an aspect of this emergency. The out-of-hours service is still available in Bantry and Bandon.

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