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Alternatives to swabbing and isolating suspected coronavirus cases need to be developed – UL Hospitals Group CEO

Hospitals will struggle to cope with isolating patients who may have the coronavirus (Covid-19) unless alternatives are found, according to the CEO of UL Hospitals Group, Ms Colette Cowen.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI), Ms Cowen said that up to eight suspected cases were tested in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) last weekend, but none were positive.

Ms Cowen said that while the Hospital Group is following national guidelines in managing these cases, the potential scale of the problem could put an immense strain on hospitals.

“I imagine that will be very challenging as this progresses as a problem across the world,” Ms Cowen told MI.

“How do we isolate all patients and deal with the influx of other patients? It is evolving all the time and we have to come up with solutions to make sure patients can be swabbed elsewhere perhaps and quarantine themselves at home unless they are better. Unless they are very ill of course.”

Ms Cowen added that a suitable area has been identified in UHL for patients requiring isolation.

“Luckily we have good infrastructure in our critical care block that we can isolate these patients in,” she said.

“All our staff are trained; we have the protective equipment for them. We are constantly updating them every day. So the staff know what they have to do. There are criteria the person has to meet before they are swabbed and we do that. We have had some people in China; we have had others who have symptoms and are just a bit worried.”

As of 11 February , there 65 suspected cases of Covid-19 tested in Ireland, and no confirmed cases.

Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health, Dr Tony Holohan stated: “We remain prepared for a confirmed case of Covid-19.”

“The Irish health system is currently operating a containment strategy in line with global practice, and all our efforts are focused on identifying suspected cases as they arise and initiating measures to prevent onward transmission of the virus.

The National Public Health Emergency Team continues to coordinate response efforts between the Health Service and other Government Departments and Agencies, to ensure a comprehensive response in the event of a confirmed case.”

“Anyone returning from China in the last 14 days, and experiencing symptoms associated with Covid-19 is instructed to self- isolate and contact the health service via phone or email.”

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