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'We need to treat each other like pariahs': Limerick intensive care doctor issues stark warning

Dr Catherine Motherway of University Hospital Limerick said the Irish health system may struggle if Covid-19 is not contained.
Mar 20th 2020, 12:18 PM 41,930 53

Source: RTÉ - IRELAND’S NATIONAL PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA/YouTube

AN INTENSIVE CARE physician has warned that no health service in the world could manage an outbreak of Covid-19 similar to those which affected China and northern Italy.

Dr Catherine Motherway of University Hospital Limerick also described the number of intensive care beds in Ireland – which is just half that of Italy – as a “significant problem” and called on people to strictly observe social distancing and hand-washing measures. 

She also called on Irish people to take the issue more seriously, saying that if a surge in cases was not controlled, the health service would be facing a major problem.

“We have a limited amount of beds and we have been working very hard for the last number of weeks to try and increase capacity,” Motherway told Prime Time on RTÉ One last night.

“The HSE have funded a significant amount of beds and we’ve all identified places in our hospitals where we will treat and ventilate patients.

“But ideally, you don’t need to get to see me. You need not to get this disease and you need to do that by keeping away from other people – two metres away, stay in your own home, wash your hands.”

Motherway also pointed to how China taught us, South Korea and Singapore had coped with the novel coronavirus, stressing the importance of isolation and the need for communities to “treat each other like pariahs”.

South Korea, which has a population of more than 50 million people, has shown a dramatic improvement in cases since the start of the month, when it was the country hardest-hit by the virus outside China.

The have been 8,652 confirmed cases in South Korea and 94 deaths, but new cases of the virus have fallen sharply recently.

But it has made extensive efforts to isolate those infected, as well as to trace and quarantine those with whom they have been in contact.

More than 270,000 people have already been tested in South Korea, the third highest rate per capita in the world.

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Likewise, Singapore – which has a population of 5.6 million – has 385 cases and no deaths.

The city-state implemented travel restrictions, while health authorities also began to test all cases of influenza-like illnesses and pneumonia and tracing all people who had possibly been in contact with those infected.

“It’s a real change for all of us, but we need to do that to prevent what has happened in Italy from happening here,” Motherway added.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that information from the government would be key to how Ireland copes with the crisis.

“That is why we’re asking people to work with us. We will provide as much transparency as we possibly can in terms of the decision-making that is going on within government right now.”

Coveney said departments are “working night and day to try to protect their sectors”. He added that the government will be as “open” and “truthful” as possible “even if the news isn’t good”.

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