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Hospitals and schools hit by staff shortages

January 10th, 2022 7:05 AM

By Southern Star Team

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BY EMMA CONNOLLY AND KIERAN O’MAHONY

SURGERIES at Bantry General Hospital had to be postponed this week due to staff shortages caused by the ongoing Omicron surge.

Carole Croke, manager of Bantry General Hospital, said that ‘unfortunately, similar to all our colleagues across the country, the service has been impacted.’

On Tuesday, the hospital had a total of 21 staff in self-isolation or restricting movements due to Covid-19.

‘In the main we are continuing to provide unscheduled care via the hospital’s medical assessment unit and most scheduled care we hope can continue to run this week,’ said Ms Croke. But she said the hospital had to cancel elective day case surgery on Wednesday last, January 5th, affecting seven patients in total. All the surgeries will be rescheduled over the coming weeks, she added.

The increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients admitted to CUH, along with staffing challenges, is also putting significant pressure on services there, the hospital said in a statement this week, urging people to consult with their GPs first, where possible.

Meanwhile, as schools in the region reopened, they faced extreme challenges due to teachers having to self-isolate, and the already existing shortage of substitute teachers. Alan Foley, principal of St Patrick’s Boys NS in Skibbereen, said reopening was a ‘logistical nightmare’ due to staffing issues.

A day before reopening, he estimated that his staff numbers were down around 10-20%, a figure he expected to rise as the day went on. ‘And because of the existing subbing shortage, I have only been able to secure one student teacher,’ he said.

‘We already had situations on several days in November where we were four or five staff down and had no cover for them and the last thing we want do is to take special educational needs teachers out of their posts,’ he said.

However, Mr Foley said they were still very glad to be able to open their doors, despite an understandable anxiety over Covid cases.

He said they didn’t want a return to online learning like last year, and over the Christmas holidays the school bought a hepa filter for each of their 12 classrooms, in addition to their co2 monitors.

Principal of Union Hall national school Brendan McCarthy said they were facing similar challenges. He has tested positive himself for Covid in recent days, but said he was fortunate to have secured a sub to cover fourth and fifth classes, which he teaches.

‘If I lose another teacher, I won’t be so lucky,’ he said.

Staffing on local businesses is also being majorly impacted by Covid this week, with many forced to close completely or reduce their hours due to lack of staff. The hospitality sector has been worst hit with major restaurant The Church in Skibbereen posting on their social media: ‘Due to a number of staff members having close contacts with family and friends and a few members of staff receiving positive Covid results in the past few days we have taken the difficult decision to close the restaurant for a period of time.’

The Brick Oven in Bantry posted January 3rd they were closed and would update customers when they know more. It was a similar case in many restaurants and pubs throughout the region.

With the postal service admitting it had been severely impacted nationwide, Blarney’s post office was also forced to close on Tuesday.

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