‘We can stop this’ insists hospital chief as Covid cases soar

“We can stop this,” insisted the general manager of Cavan General Hospital, as he tried to rally public support in reducing the numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19.

“We can stop this,” David Lynch emphasised again. “It’s not that we can’t do this, we have shown that we have done it before, we can do it again.”

Accepting the roll-out of vaccines was continuing, he stressed that the only way to return to normality in the short term was by following public health advice, which remains the same from the first lockdown – regular handwashing, coughing etiquette, mask wearing, social distancing and remaining within your 5k zone.

“If people want it badly enough, they are going to have to make the sacrifices – and if they are not willing to, this is not going to stop.”

Mr Lynch was speaking in light of the spike in confirmed cases both nationally, and locally. The figures for County Cavan show a generally positive trend since the high point on January 5 when there were 160 daily cases, with steady declines reported in the five successive days. In County Monaghan the picture is more erratic with January 5 again marking the high point at 275 confirmed new cases, and a decrease of 161 the following day, but thereafter the figures have swung in either direction.

The 14 day incidence rate per 100,000 has seen both Cavan and Monaghan run wildly ahead of the national average. On January 10 – the most recent day we have figures for at the time of going to print – the national 14-day average per 100,000 stood at 1378.7; Cavan’s rate was 1495.2; and Monaghan’s was 2687.9, almost double the national average.

The reverberations of these figures are felt on hospital capacity. The HSE’s latest figures - January 11 - show Cavan General had reached capacity with no ‘general beds’ available. The hospital did however have two beds in ICU available.

A total of 64 patients were receiving treatment for COVID-19, 11 of those admitted in the previous 24 hours. Cavan General had three patients with COVID-19 being treated in critical care units, and one further suspected Covid patient being treated in critical care unit.

By comparison, a week earlier – January 24 – Cavan General had 21 patients receiving treatment for Coronavirus, five of those admitted in the previous 24 hours. On that day Cavan General had no patients with the virus (or suspected) in critical care units.

Speaking at the daily Covid briefing on Monday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned of the precarious situation facing hospitals and ICUs nationally.

“We know that hospitalisations occur some weeks after a confirmed case is notified, and mortality after that again. That means we are unfortunately set for a period of time where the situation in our hospitals gets worse before it gets better.”

When Dr Holohan’s comments were put to him, Mr Lynch observed a “level of inevitability” in its tenor.

“I don’t know I hope not,” he said.The general manager explained that hospital management host daily meetings to manage patient numbers and maximise capacity.

TheCeltraised the examples in the North and in Letterkenny where patients were being treated or assessed in ambulances.

“Could that happen? It might but I hope it doesn’t come to that. As long as we can keep turning our patients over, that hopefully will be avoided,” said Mr Lynch.

He didn’t have the specific number of current level of staff absenteeism due to COVID-19 - confirmed or close contact - but noted it was less than in the first wave.

The hospital received vaccines last week, ahead of schedule, and have commenced vaccinating staff.

“The demand is great – it’s positive in the sense that whatever vaccines we received last week, we used them up in a day and a half. Whereas we would normally use them up in three days, but the demand was so huge we put on extra staff and clinics to deliver that. And we are doing that this week.”

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