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Connacht Tribune

Concern over the sick avoiding Emergency Dept

Stephen Corrigan

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Saolta Hospital Group Clinical Director for Medicine, Dr Ramona McLoughlin

There are serious concerns that people who are sick and require hospitalisation may be avoiding hospital Emergency Departments due to Covid-19 anxiety – risking long-term but potentially preventable damage to their health.

That’s according to Saolta Hospital Group Clinical Director for Medicine, Dr Ramona McLoughlin, who told the Connacht Tribune that attendance to the ED at University Hospital Galway had dropped significantly in recent weeks.

“Our big worry is that people are not going to ED or to their GP because of coronavirus,” she explained.

Dr McLoughlin said that conditions such as MI (myocardial infarction or heart attack), stroke or kidney infection were not any less likely to occur now, in the midst of this global pandemic, than they were beforehand.

“This pandemic does not prevent any other diseases,” she stressed, adding that EDs nationwide had seen similar decreases in the number of people attending with common conditions that would still be occurring, despite the lockdown.

All necessary precautions had been taken at UHG to ensure that patients presenting to the ED with any symptoms indicating the presence of Covid-19 were kept separate from those with other illnesses, said Dr McLoughlin.

“We have put in pathways at the entrance to the ED – if you have [flu-like] symptoms, you go down one pathway; if you have a suspected MI, stroke or appendicitis, you go down a separate pathway,” she continued.

Daily presentations to the ED at UHG – the main acute hospital in the region – have been around 50 people for day; the norm was about 180 to 250 people per day, said Dr McLoughlin.

As talk turns to how the country will return to some semblance of normality in coming weeks, Dr McLoughlin said people had to prepare for a return to what would be a new normal – and this was particularly relevant for medicine.

“We have been really lucky in Ireland with how social distancing has helped.

“The death rate in Ireland is about half that in the UK, but the big worry is how we are going to get back to life with Covid-19 – it’s not going to be normal life,” she said.

While there were hopes that a vaccine will be available, it was at least 12 months away – a timeframe Dr McLoughlin called optimistic – and there was still a lot unknown about achieving immunity to this novel virus.

Other areas of healthcare have been impacted, with many elective surgeries cancelled; many clinics have been moved to virtual fora due to concerns over keeping people in waiting rooms; while the reluctance to attend GP surgeries or ED could result in delayed diagnosis, she said.

“With cancer, there is a whole range of concerns. If a patient doesn’t present with symptoms, that could delay diagnosis.

“Because we were preparing for a pandemic surge, we did reduce elective activity to free up space so that did reduce clinic activity and elective procedures. That could well have an impact on diagnosis.

“We can open back up those activities and utilise the Galway Clinic and Bon Secours so that procedures can be operated in a non-Covid hospital, as far as you can say that about anywhere,” she said.

For patients having chemotherapy for cancer, provision had been made to administer treatment in clinic rooms at UHG which provided better protection, given that they were immunosuppressed.

People presenting to the ED in psychiatric emergencies were also being taken straight to the new Adult Acute Mental Health Unit, said Dr McLoughlin.

She advised that people exercise their own judgement and to seek medical assistance when they needed it or, “they may end up with more serious difficulties”.

Connacht Tribune

Covid lockdown returns for Kildare, Laois and Offaly

Enda Cunningham

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The Government has announced localised lockdowns for people living in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, following a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

People from outside of those counties have been asked not to travel their unless for work or essential travel.

The restrictions affect travel, pubs, restaurants, swimming pools and cinemas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the clusters of new cases were of serious concern and described the restrictions as “limited”.

“Over the past 14 days 292 cases of Covid-19 have arisen in Kildare, Laois and Offaly. These represent almost half of all cases detected in Ireland during that time.

“These measures are being put in place to protect the vulnerable in these counties as well as to stop the spread of the virus.

They are in place for two weeks from midnight tonight (Friday) until midnight on Friday, August 20. The situation will then be reviewed,” the Taoiseach said.

Travel and transport

You can only travel within your county, other than for the following reasons:

  • to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
  • to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
  • for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
  • for farming purposes, food production or care of animals

You should not travel into any of these counties, other than for the reasons above, and you need to travel through these counties to get somewhere else. You should not stop in Kildare, Laois or Offaly unless for essential purposes.

Public and private transport

You should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary to do so, and where possible you should not share private vehicles with others from outside your household.

Education and childcare

The following services remain open with appropriate protective measures in place:

  • education and childcare
  • outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks
  • Economic activity and work
  • Anyone in these counties who can work from home should work from home.

Social

Cafes and restaurants

  • All cafes and restaurants, including bars operating as restaurants, should only offer takeaway or delivery, or outdoor dining (maximum 15 people with strict physical distancing).
  • Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.

Indoor gatherings

  • All indoor gatherings should be restricted to a maximum of 6 people from no more than 3 households in total, while maintaining physical distancing.

Outdoor gatherings

  • Outdoor gatherings should be limited to a maximum of 15 people, while maintaining physical distancing.

Cultural and religious

  • All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
  • Attendance at a funeral service and burial or cremation ceremony should be limited to 25 outdoors. Indoor events connected to the funeral are limited to a maximum of 6 people.
  • Places of worship remain open for private prayer, while services are to be held online.

Sport

No sporting events or matches should take place, with the following exemptions:

  • non-contact training outdoors in a maximum group of 15 people may continue
  • professional and elite sports and horse-racing may continue behind closed doors
  • inter-county training (max 15 people) and fixtures may continue behind closed doors

Residential and healthcare facilities

*Visiting in long-term residential care facilities, acute settings and prisons will generally be suspended in the first instance with the exception of the most critical and compassionate circumstances (for example end of life).

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Connacht Tribune

Relocation homebuyers head to the west

Dara Bradley

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Clifden....popular destination.

The Coronavirus pandemic has encouraged a new exodus of homebuyers to relocate to the west, with remote working now a viable option for many employees.

Galway’s busiest auctioneer has noticed increased interest in properties in the city and county from workers relocating from Dublin, its commuter belt and the Midlands.

The availability of high-speed broadband, which can facilitate working from home, is a determining factor in many homebuyers’ decisions to move to the West.

But the high cost of renting remains the single biggest incentive for people to get on the property ladder, according to Niall Browne, senior sales negotiator at O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers.

“People are paying such high rent that it’s the equivalent to a mortgage repayment and that’s when you buy. That’s the biggest incentive to buy – you’re not giving away dead money,” Mr Browne said.

The property market locally had quietened in the initial months of the Covid-19 lockdown – but it has been buoyant in the past two months in particular, he said.

Mr Browne suggested there was an element of pent-up demand for housing that was now being realised as the Covid lockdown restrictions focused people’s minds on their desire to purchase a home.

“We typically try to get eight to ten sales per month by private treaty, and we had 28 or 29 last month. The previous month was six and the previous month was eight. This month (July) we’re up to 26, and that’s outside of our auction,” he said.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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Connacht Tribune

Nursing Homes shun student nurses over Covid fears

Stephen Corrigan

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Student nurses in Galway are facing financial doom as part-time employers shun those currently on work placement in hospitals over fears they are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19.

First year nursing student at NUI Galway Ciarán Mac an tSaoir told the Connacht Tribune that this had become a particular issue for first and second year students who would traditionally take on healthcare assistant roles in nursing homes, where the fear of spreading the virus is at fever pitch.

“After semester one in first year, you are essentially qualified as a healthcare assistant and a lot of students would take that up as an option. Since Covid-19 came in, a lot of work places are fearful of cross-contamination and that’s not unjustified.

“It’s very understandable that a nursing home wouldn’t want a student who might be going between five or six clinical areas in an acute hospital to be then coming into work in the nursing home,” said Mr Mac an tSaoir.

Nursing students, for whom a large proportion of their university experience is spent on unpaid work placement, spend up to 35-hours a week in a clinical setting and so that could mean them travelling between a Covid-19-free setting of a nursing home to a respiratory word in a hospital such as UHG, he explained.

However, this wasn’t a HSE policy but rather the decision of individual care facilities who were doing their best to ensure coronavirus was kept out.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also purchase a digital edition here.

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