A slow return to normality

Well, as I said last month, Cork has done really very well in obeying the rules and recommendations to limit the spread of Covid19. Well done everyone, it has not been easy at all.

We all look forward to getting back to some sort of normality, but let us not rush, as the risks are great. Let us continue to follow expert advice.

I have switched from GP to A&E work full time during this crisis.

It is fair to say we did not get the expected surge in cases, but the preparations and care given to a new way of working in A&E to cope with worst scenario, were amazing!

Literally overnight corridors were cleared of trolley waits, and staff rotas were altered to get the right people in the right place, doing shorter shifts, to remain fresher. Builders appeared and modified clinical areas to create Covid-safe cubicles like some speeded up ‘Changing Rooms’ episode! …Great to see retired old friends return to the fray. Our Admin have kept us posted on a daily basis of case numbers and expert guidance in treating patients. There has been a wonderful team effort.

Yes, we were lucky as well…again overnight numbers attending A&E fell by over 50 per cent. Our frequent flyers like the drunks and addicts who constitute at least 30 per cent of our workload amazingly stayed away. We could then concentrate on the really sick. A&E was perceived as a dangerous place, and I believe the ‘not-so-sick’ stayed away out of fear.

The GPs and their support staff have done a fantastic job harnessing technology to do virtual consultations and give expert advice and treatment.

I really have to take my hat off to the work done by the wonderful staff in our local community Hospital and Nursing Homes who I know very well. We all appreciate their efforts and care in doing their best for our elderly, during very difficult times in an area, which is so high risk. Really well done!

We health care workers are being hailed as heroes. I don’ t feel much like a hero! My job has improved during the crisis – fewer patients, better facilities, patients saying ‘thank you’ and an empty waiting room without the place being choked by trolleys. Patients are thinking before they turn up at A&E. 

What will be really heroic now at, let us say, ‘half time’ in this crisis is if we all ensure we never go back to the absolute shambles that existed in A&E before the pandemic. There now is a will and momentum to make this happen. We have to create alternative pathways for the sick and stop using A&E as the only place to go when you need help.

We have a lot of catching up to do with waiting lists; these can be tackled with the team effort and funding that we have prioritised over the last three months. Why should multi million euro scanners, Operating Theatres and Endoscopy rooms be shut down at weekends or after 5pm? The people paid for them; let us use them properly.

One thing we all have come to appreciate during this pandemic is the true value of health. Keeping us all healthy and safe, costs!

One other spin-off of the sweeping changes is a much better morale in the Hospitals. This might even slow down the mass exodus of our best and younger doctors going abroad.

Otherwise, well done everyone. It’s great to see so many out running and enjoying beautiful West Cork. Stay well and follow the advice.   

Dr Jeff Featherstone

Dr Jeff Featherstone is a West Cork GP and A&E doctor at Mercy University Hospital and Cork University Hospital.

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