AS the baton of leadership was passed in the USA from Donal Trump to Joe Biden, an Ennis nursing working in the USA has questioned how many lives could have been saved if the former’s approach had been more like his successor.
Analysing the 437,000 Covid-19 deaths in the USA, Caron McMahon pointed out that each state was given independent decision making power to determine the precise nature of lockdown.
Some state governors, such as Texas and Georgia, didn’t strictly follow medical evidence and kept business, schools and church open, while Washington enforced a strict lockdown.
It has been claimed that mixed messaging from the White House played a major role in the confusion.
“If Trump had listened to the experts about the science and acted sooner, who knows how many of those 437,000 lives could have been saved.
“President Joe Biden respects the science and recognises the importance of getting this disease under control,” says Carron.
The Ennis nurse manager predicts healthcare provision will never be the same again due to the dramatic impact of Covid-19.
Working in the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Caron McMahon describes coping with the Covid-19 pandemic as one of the most “challenging” periods of her 33-year career.
“This has been the most challenging time of my entire career and yet the most rewarding due to the teamwork that evolved during this pandemic. Healthcare service provision will never be the same. It has changed forever,” she explains.
Caron received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on January 2 and was fully vaccinated with her second dose on January 22.
She feels very lucky to be one of the early recipients and did not suffer any side effects, not even a sore arm.
In an extensive interview with the Clare Champion, she outlines the financial impact of Covid-19 on every healthcare system was dramatic, as surgery revenue dropped, medication and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) equipment costs dramatically increased and staff burn out is huge while the pandemic continues.
“Staying strong for everyone everyday for the last 11 months has proven to me how resilient I am and how well I can cope in the face of adversity. I continue to love this profession and am very thankful for the opportunity to influence healthcare on a global level.”
She admits the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on her caseload as she has continued to work every additional hour required of her since February 2019.
“Seattle was ground zero for first USA cases. Overnight everything changed. Seattle went into total lock down in the first week of March 2020 and has never fully reopened.
Life and my job changed overnight. I went home one night returned the following day to a changed medical world.
“This was a respiratory pandemic and we were not prepared for the weeks that followed. Security check points were set up at hospital entrances. Everyone was screened including staff and visitors, nobody was allowed in if they had symptoms but we realised this could not continue as we needed to figure out a way to identify and treat the sick.
“Our aim was to continue to serve the needs of the patients in the safest way possible but we were learning on the spot and adapting and adjusting every policy with lightening speed.
“Covid-19 test sites were set up overnight and telemedicine projects that would normally take a project team and a year to 18 months of approval and implementation plans happened in three days. Decisions were made, funds approved, equipment delivered and doctors, nurse practitioners were privileged in three days. It was crazy.
“The medical insurance companies did not know how to bill or pay for these new services but we moved forward as we needed to provide care options for patients,” she recalls.
When TeleOB Telemedicine Obstetric Medicine started, patients were given ultrasound monitors and blood pressure cuffs and taught over Zoom how to self-monitor their child’s heart beat and check their blood pressure.
Caron describes the last eleven months as an “incredible leadership experience” as staff united to overcome barriers to the provision of care in every area of the hospital.
“Overnight, policies changed and continued to change depending on what we were faced with from the public. Patients and staff were extremely scared as Covid-19 continued to spread and staff looked to me every day for guidance and assurance they were safe.
“Communication was key and my role changed by the minute. I had a responsibly to continue running the essential services needed for the pregnant women and sick children in my care as life continues even in a pandemic and these mothers and children deserved the best care we could deliver.
“Eleven months into this pandemic, the pace of change continues but we have gained experience and now know what we are dealing with, the impact of good Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use and practices, and now we have a vaccine.
“Everything is different. Seattle shut down in early March 2020 and I have not missed a day of work since. I wear a mask everywhere and always carry hand sanitizer with me.
“My whole social world has been reduced to work and home. No socialising, nobody enters my house except my husband and two stepchildren ages 21 and 23.
“All in person work meetings stopped, strict cleaning protocols were implemented, all non urgent in person visits switched to telephone or video telemedicine visits.
“Entire departments were reconfigured to ensure staff work environments conformed to the meet six feet distancing regulations, plastic screens went up at public facing areas, chairs were removed from waiting areas, strict visitor policies implemented and all non elective surgery was cancelled,” she recalls.
While Caron points out staff will still have to wear masks and stay six feet apart for the next six months, she says the vaccines gives everyone a “sense of hope”, hope to see family and friends soon and talk without masks.
In view of the importance of the vaccine roll out, Caron has been volunteering to work extra shifts more than her 40 hour plus week, administering it to to her fellow colleagues across the healthcare system.
In addition to running for the Marian Athletic Club for more than 15 years, Caron is a first cousin of former Ennis Mayor, Councillor Johnny Flynn and eldest sibling to Tom, Alison and Emma McMahon.
Her parents, Seamus and Margaret McMahon were born in Ennis. The couple worked in Belfast during the early years of their marriage.
Caron was born in Belfast and when she was eight months the family moved back to her grandparents’ house on Lifford Road, Ennis.
Seamus built a dwelling house on a site next to this dwelling and they moved into what remains the family home when Caron was four years old.
Caron started her career as a student nurse in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth. Once qualified, she moved to Dublin and worked in the Adelaide Hospital, before completing her midwifery training in the Coombe Women’s Hospital.
She returned to the Adelaide for another three years before moving to London for an opportunity to develop her critical care experience.
She worked as Assistant Director of Nursing in Mount Carmel until she was “head hunted” for a major healthcare project for Sidra Medical in Qatar, Middle East.
“This was the biggest project I ever worked on and am proud to say I was promoted three times in my first six months achieving the position of Executive Director for Nursing Operation, commissioning and directing operations for a huge greenfield site women’s and children’s hospital on a huge greenfield site.
She met her husband, Neil, on this project and they married in Seattle USA on December 3, 2016.