Sligo Champion

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'We have planned for this' - Hickey



Mr Fergal Hickey

Mr Fergal Hickey

Mr Fergal Hickey

People across the region are being urged to exercise caution and adhere to the guidelines as laid out by the HSE to help restrict the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Fergal Hickey, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Sligo University Hospital, emphasised the importance of the general public being aware of general hygiene such as handwashing and the social distancing measures being outlined.

Adherence by the public to these guidelines will go a long way to leeping the number of cases low, and helping the health service cope with those who do have the virus.

"It all goes back to handwashing and social distancing, it's really, really, really important.

"I can't emphasise just how important they are," Mr Hickey told The Sligo Champion.

"If we can slow it down, we may be in a position to cope with it, but if it spreads like wild fire we could be overwhelmed."

With the number of cases across the country rising on a daily basis, Dr Hickey says there are two cases in Sligo with both patients doing well and in self-isolation in their own homes.

"There's an eerie silence around the hospital,. There are fewer patients than usual," Mr Hickey commented.

"So far there are two Covid-19 patients in Sligo, both are isolated at home and both are doing well.

"But it is a case of when, and not if, we get more cases."

Sligo University Hospital and its staff have a plan in place to deal with an increase in cases, if that happens, and Dr Hickey stressed that they will do all they can to help everyone who needs care.

"Hospital infrastructure in Ireland is not really designed for what might happen," Mr Hickey explained.

"We have limited bed capacity and isolation facilities. We also have a limited capacity and a limited capacity to ventilate if someone needs ventilation, and so on.

"But, in so far as we can, we have cleared the hospital and have planned for this.

"We will have different levels of care - for example, if Intensive Care fills up we will start using other parts of the hospital for ventilation. We have a plan.

"But as we've seen from the Italian experience, even the best laid plans can find it difficult so, again, it all goes back to prevention so handwashing and social distancing."

Over the course of the weekend, images and videos emerged on social media of public establishments in Dublin with big crowds out socialising.

"However, a government announcement on Sunday called for all pubs to shut their doors until 29th March to help curtail large gatherings which can help spread the virus.

"However, Mr Hickey says he believes that people in this region have been more responsible.

"I get the sense that people in this region are being more cautious. The pubs closed and there weren't any major gatherings like the stuff we saw over the weekend. There was a greater level of social responsibility.

"We should remember though that Sligo-Leitrim has the oldest population in the country, and that is the group - the elderly - that is most at risk.

"The two groups most at risk are the elderly and those with a pre-existing medical condition - in many cases, elderly people may have a pre-existing medical condition, so they we need to be very careful."

As for advice for the public in an effort to curtail the spread of Covid-19, Mr Hickey again emphasises the importance of hand-washing, as well as being conscious of what we do on a daily basis when it comes to contact with other people.

"Measures taken on an individual and personal basis will help prevent the virus spreading as quickly as it otherwise might.

"People need to think about it," he says.

"People have failed to follow guidelines in some cases. It's important to sit far away from others, and to be careful about visiting the elderly.

"Leaving children with Granda and Grandma at this stage is not really suitable. Of course, we don't want to leave anyone isolated and we need to stay in touch via phones, but it has to be in a way that is not a risk to their health.

"I would advise very strongly that people wash their hands, and wash them for long enough.

"Use warm water and soap for at least twenty seconds, washing the back of the hands and regularly after touching different surfaces.

"People should also not touch their nose, eyes or face - that is the way the virus will enter. It will not get through intact skin," he said.

Sligo Champion