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Cork University Hospital respiratory service ‘devastated’ by Covid

The pulmonary function laboratory at Cork University Hospital (CUH) has only worked at approximately a quarter of its capacity since the Covid-19 crisis began, a respiratory physician based at the hospital has told the Medical Independent (MI).

Consultant Respiratory Physician Dr Michael Henry said the reduction in the laboratory’s capacity is due to a range of factors associated with the pandemic, such as the emergency department appropriating part of the workspace, the greater need for sterilisation, and the safety concerns of staff.

“The knock-on effect of it all is that we get less than a quarter of the number of tests done that we need to get done,” he told MI. “So if you have a lung cancer patient who needs an urgent part of their lung removed, we can’t get it done for weeks. “Also, I run a lung fibrosis clinic that I’m doing this afternoon. I would have 20-something patients coming; most of them should have had their pulmonary function tests done. I would say I’d be lucky if three or four have them done…. Most of it, not all of it, is down to Covid.

That has a huge impact on how we manage all of these complex respiratory patients.” The respiratory department’s outpatient space was also appropriated at the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, outpatient consultations have moved offsite and now take place in a local convent. “The facility is just really poor and not fit for an outpatient service,” according to Dr Henry.

“And that is the direct result of the other area that was previously used now being taken for Covid pathways. To put it mildly, it has devastated our service here. It will be different in different hospitals. But I’m sure everybody will tell you the samething. It is having a huge effect on how we are running our service. We are not running our service very well because of this.”

Dr Henry was speaking in advance of the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Irish Thoracic Society, which takes place
virtually on 19 November.

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