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Colette Cowan, CEO UL Hospitals' Group, who has outlined measures taken by the group to combat Covid-19.

“We have to be ready at all times”

OFTEN the targets of strident criticism in the past, HSE representatives received a standing ovation at Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council, in recognition of their efforts in battling Covid-19.

At the council meeting, the HSE representatives, including Colette Cowan, CEO of the UL Hospitals Group and Maria Bridgeman, Chief Officer of the Mid West Community Healthcare area and Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health in the Mid West, explained the efforts that were made in the region to tackle Covid-19,while they praised frontline staff but also gave the message that danger has not fully abated.

Dr Mannix said that in 13 previous pandemics, there have been second and third waves, illustrating the risks that are still lurking.

Ms Cowan said that the pandemic had arrived in the region on March 4, a week or two before it arrived in other parts of Ireland. She said this left the task of developing what she called “a hospital within a hospital” quickly, with Covid and non-Covid streams. 

At the time she said that attendances at A&E dropped very dramatically. “There was a lot of fear and anxiety,.”

Ms Cowan also said there is still a lot of anxiety about how things may pan out in the coming months, with the possibility of future surges, with flu certain to be an issue later in the year as well. 

She praised the staff saying, “Fantastic is the only way of describing them, and we will never be able to repay them”. 

Ms Cowan said that staff morale is much better now than it was pre-pandemic, while skills developed over the last few months will be very helpful if there is another wave of Covid-19.  S

Ms Bridgeman presented a slide which showed there have been 368 confirmed or suspected cases in Clare to date, while the figure for Limerick was 587 and 542 for Tipperary, with a total of 94 deaths.  “We have to be ready at all times in the event we have another surge,” she warned.

At the height of the pandemic she said that staffing had been a huge challenge, with many absences due to contact with Covid-19, issues with childcare and staff having to cocoon. 

During the worst of the crisis accommodation had to be provided for some staff, another new challenge for the service, she said.

Dr Mannix outlined the progress made in testing, saying that in future people will be able to get an appointment for a test within 24 hours, with results available 24-48 hours later.

She warned that there have been numerous second and third waves to previous pandemics, and said that the same basic principles around protection from the disease still apply. 

The HSE representatives answered numerous questions from the elected members of the council, while Cathaoirleach Councillor Mary Howard praised their work and the level of communication since the start of the pandemic.

Owen Ryan

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.