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UL Hospitals' Group CEO, Colette Cowan, has appealed to the public to continue adhering to Covid-19 public health guidelines in the wake of the disruption caused by the cyber attack.

Covid-19 Appeal As Hospitals Hit By Cyber Attack

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CLARE people are being urged to continue following public health guidelines to minimise the spread of Covid-19 as acute hospitals in the region struggle to cope with the severe impact of the cyber attack on HSE information technology systems.

The UL Hospitals’ Group has confirmed the number of Covid-19 positve patients admitted to University Hospital Limerick (UHL) has increased from two to 14 from May 13 to May 20.

While the group stressed these figures should be interpreted with a large degree of caution, their clinicians are reporting an increase in Covid-19 related activity presenting to the ED at a time when the department, and all acute hospital services, are facing massive disruption as a result of last week’s cyber attack.

The group continue to follow all national guidance on Covid-19 testing and we continue to take all the necessary infection control precautions. Separate Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 pathways remain in place for all patients attending the ED.

The effects of the cyber attack have increased wait times, increased the risk of crowding and are severely testing  diagnostic capacity as staff switch to manual back-up systems.

The group stressed it is imperative that people continue to adhere to the public health advice around hand hygiene, social distancing, cough and sneeze etiquette, wearing a mask and avoiding crowds.

Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals’ Group, said it seems particularly cruel that  patients and staff have been affected by this devastating cyber attack at a time when the progress of the vaccination programme and the lifting of restrictions was offering us so much hope.

“Clinicians have in recent days reported an increase in Covid-19 activity through our ED. We need to interpret the data with caution and we are working closely with our public health and community colleagues on monitoring the overall trend of the pandemic.

“However, we are now appealing to the public to continue to adhere to the public health advice. Through the vaccination programme we have managed to offer protection to our most vulnerable citizens and to our hospital staff. However, vaccinated staff will still be required to stay off duty if they come into contact with a positive case. We simply cannot afford to see significant levels of staff off work at this time as we attempt to protect essential services and recover from this cyber attack. Hospital staff are also central to the region’s vaccination programme.

In addition, Covid-19 still has the potential to cause serious illness and death in the significant numbers waiting for vaccination.”

Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West, said this sinister cyber attack has placed a massive hurdle in front of the health service that is already tackling its biggest ever crisis as a result of the pandemic.

“The Covid-19 fight is far from over, and we continue to see young people, including parents of young families, being admitted to hospital with this disease. So, at this point in time as our health service deals with this cyber attack, I am asking everyone to help our frontline workers who are pulling out all the stops to protect the public. Avoid high-risk activity that could expose you or a loved one to being infected.”

Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 are advised not go to the Emergency Department or their GP. Ring them in advance for advice, and avoid contact with other people by self-isolating. In a medical emergency if you have severe symptoms, call 112 or 999.

 

Dan Danaher

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