Paddy Mooney Head of Ambulance Service Midlands, Ann Sheerin Head of Community Services Laois /Offaly, Fergus Fenlon, Project Manager, HSE Estates Midlands (left) Niall Colleary, Estates Mngr Midlands
A Covid-19 drive-thru testing centre currently under construction at Clonminch outside of Tullamore is due to open this week.
The centre will have between 6 to 8 car lanes to cater for what is expected to be a large volume of traffic. However, the HSE stress that people will only be tested if they have been referred by their GP and received an appointment. Those showing up without an appointment will not be tested. There are 13 cases of Covid-19 in Offaly as of midnight Sunday. March 22. There are 1,329 cases in Ireland and seven deaths have been recorded so far, the most recent in Tullamore.
Meanwhile, at Tullamore hospital emergency services are continuing as normal however, the HSE is advising people not to present to the emergency department if they have respiratory or Covid-19 symptoms without first getting advice from a GP. The Hospital has cancelled the outpatients department and elective admissions and patients have been contacted directly. Urgent and emergency admissions are being prioritised.
The HSE says: "The Hospitals are implementing the Government Action Plan to respond to the very significant challenge that Covid-19 will impact on our services, this includes a range of measures including the development of Covid Triage and Patient Flow Processes, additional ICU and isolation capacity which will need to be supported by equipment and people. Engagement with national HSE is underway in that regard."
The most important public health message at the moment is for people to stay at home, as the HSE say "this will support our frontline staff to be able to respond to this challenge."
GPs can now make electronic referrals for Covid-19 testing for patients, as appropriate, using the Healthlink system. Patients receive confirmation of their appointment by text. The text also includes details of the testing location and the time of the appointment.
Patients and referrers are advised that a waiting time will apply for community testing appointments. The HSE says "it is increasing the capacity of community testing to meet the demand for this service. Waiting times are anticipated to improve as new locations for community testing open, more staff are trained to provide these tests, and critically, the supplies to support increased testing levels are sourced and distributed.’’
If you are waiting on a test to see if you have Covid-19 or you have been tested and are waiting for the results you need to stay home and self-isolate to prevent you spreading any potential infection to others.
If the virus for Covid-19 is not detected you should continue to self-isolate until 48 hours after you last had symptoms. This is because while the virus for Covid-19 was not detected you have symptoms of an infectious respiratory illness which you do not want to pass on to others.
If the virus for Covid-19 is detected you must continue to self-isolate until you are 14 days without symptoms and have had no temperature for the last 5 days of the 14 days.
At no stage will visitors to the centres leave their car. Once checked in at the entrance, visitors will be provided with a face mask, tissues and disposable bag and directed to a test bay attended by healthcare workers wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). At this point, visitors will be asked to blow their nose and dispose of the tissue in the bag provided. A throat and nose swab will then be taken and the visitor will leave the facility and return to self-isolation.
Pat Bennett, Chief Officer, HSE Midlands, Louth and Meath said: “We would like to acknowledge the tremendous support that we have got from our local communities as we implement the government action plan in response to Covid19. We can’t stop the virus, but together, we can reduce the impact it has on ourselves, our families, communities, our health service and our day-to-day lives. Our goal is to slow the spread of coronavirus. If we can slow it down, we give ourselves, and our most vulnerable people, more options and more time for care and recovery. Our collective efforts are critical, we need to do this together, as one community. We will be asking everyone to play their part, to help each other.”
Pat Mooney, Head of Ambulance Service, Midlands Area said: “On behalf of the entire team that worked on this development, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude for the support we have received. To see how a community can work together in the interest of humanity and the delivery of patient care to the public at this time has been immense.”
The HSE has appealed for the privacy of those staffing and visiting the centres to be respected.