Coastguard and Army drafted in to transport hospital staff
A Wexford nurse, working nights at University Hospital Waterford, was one of many who was grateful to the Coastguard and the Army for getting them to work in a time when they were desperately needed.
Catriona McCarthy, a mother-of-two from Ballyanne, New Ross, is a Senior Staff Nurse at the hospital, where she has worked for the past 15 years, and was on nights for Thursday and Friday.
To add mileage to her journey, Catriona had been in Cork at the beginning of the week, visiting a friend, but when the snow hit that county earlier than expected, she was forced to rethink her route home to New Ross.
'I did the tour of Ireland to get home in time for work. None of the trains were running from Cork because the route from Youghal to Middleton was closed. My friend was due to work in Kells on Wednesday so we set off in her jeep along the M8 which was a scary experience. She dropped me to Heuston Station and I got the train to Waterford.'
However, on Thursday morning, Catriona realised that she would not be able to get to and from the hospital as her husband Anthony's jeep was in the garage and her car would not manage the conditions. She contacted the management at the hospital.
'I knew I'd be needed so I rang them early in the morning. The Coastguard collected me at about 4 p.m. on Thursday and brought me to the Woodland Hotel. The army collected us then that night for our shift.
'But overnight the conditions got so bad that when we finished up the following morning, we ended up walking from the hospital back to the hotel. That took about 45 minutes. The road doesn't have steps or anything which was good but it had had frozen and was slippery and that was our main fear.'
She said the hospital was concerned for the safety of the staff in walking this route and so the army was called in, with a large transporter, that evening to bring staff to and from the hospital. She added that they said some of their equipment had got stuck in other locations around Wexford.
'It was very well coordinated and the management were brilliant. They stayed in the hospital all night to ensure that care was given. Some of the staff had come from all over the country and were away from their families maybe for two days more than usual, and that's hard on them.'
On Saturday morning, Catriona was given the go-ahead to go home, after a colleague managed to get to the hopsital to take over from her and a Coastguard crew brought her home.
'There were ten foot drifts all along our road but the locals dug out a pathway, and fair play to the Coastguard and the Army who were brilliant. Wexford really got hammered - on Wednesday night there was a lot of snow in Waterford but it seemed to hit Wexford with a bang.'
The thaw, she remarked, would help to return things to normal, but she said that the coming weeks would be extremely busy as efforts would be made to address the backlog of patients as a result of the disruption.