Limerick paramedics testing Covid-19 have ‘no washing machine’

Limerick paramedics testing Covid-19 have ‘no washing machine’

LIMERICK paramedics, who will be providing the majority of tests for the Covid-19 coronavirus in the Mid-West region, have to clean their uniform at home as there is no washing machine at the busy ambulance base.

This has escalated staff concerns that they will be more exposed to the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide in just three months.

At the time of going to print on Wednesday, there were two confirmed cases in Ireland. The second case, a female who travelled from northern Italy, is unrelated to the first case, a male child in a secondary school in Dublin.

Like the rest of Europe, Ireland is in the containment phase. This means that the efforts are focusing on preventing further spread, and identifying all infected cases no matter how mild they are. 

If the containment phase is unsuccessful, the focus will be diverted to those experiencing severe symptoms. This is called the mitigation phase, which is being deployed by China and South Korea and other severely affected areas globally. 

And as part of Ireland’s containment phase, the testing for Covid-19 has been moved from the acute setting to a community, whereby paramedics are to carry out tests.

That was according to the Department of Health’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan at Tuesday night’s briefing, who said it would take the pressure off clinical staff in hospitals.

However, alert sources have contacted the Limerick Leader, expressing concern over uniform hygiene. The source said that they are already exposed to superbugs through the transport and treatment of patients “and we have to bring our uniform home to wash in the same machines as our family”.

In relation to the containment of the virus at University Hospital Limerick, the Leader asked the UL Hospitals Group for the number of readily-available isolation facilities in the event of a suspected Covid-19 case; the protocol in the event all isolation facilities are occupied; the security required to supervise suspected cases; the attire being used by healthcare staff; and how many suspect cases have presented within the UL Hospitals Group.

Other than the attire being provided, there was no direct response to any of these questions.

“The HSE and the Department of Health are not providing information about individual activations of preparedness plans or about individual cases of Covid-19 (coronavirus) other than confirmed cases. 

“Working closely with the National Public Health Emergency Team, the HSE mobilised the HSE National Crisis Management Team, which has been meeting regularly since January 26.

“HSE local Winter Action Teams and local crisis management teams are working to ensure the actions taken at a national level are implemented in a consistent way across the country. 

“In preparation for any potential mitigation phase, the HSE National Crisis Management Team will continue to act in readiness regarding ICU capacity, isolation and identification of cases, staff training and up-skilling, and increased resources as required.

“Despite the challenges of a volatile market, the HSE has adequate stock of critical supplies all across the country.  The HSE has procured, 700,000 gowns, 4m gloves, 1.7m masks, 1.5m surgical masks and 400,000 face shield protections and working closely with the GP community, 13,500 PPE packs have been distributed to GPs, public health departments and primary care centres. The HSE has also purchased 12 portable ventilators in terms of supports for acute hospitals.”

The HSE has been contacted, but has as yet received no reply 

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