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Government urged to adopt ‘belt and braces’ approach to securing PPE

The Government needs to explore every avenue in obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare staff, despite the recent deal struck with China, according to the IHCA’s Vice President Dr Laura Durcan. 

At the time of going to press (26 March), a flight was due to arrive from China with 11 million masks, one million goggles, and 500,000 gowns. However Dr Durcan, who is a Consultant Rheumatologist in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, said this will not be enough due to the scale of the challenge ahead. She described healthcare staff dealing with Covid-19 without PPE as “going to war without armour”.

“I think we should be looking for PPE from every single source possible,” Dr Durcan told the Medical Independent (MI).

“Going forward, we need to stockpile. This is a war that we didn’t anticipate and stockpile for. We need to look to industry, we need to look to home manufacturing. In the medium to long term, I don’t think we can rely on supply chains from China and we need to look at what we have at home, and what we have in industry, and how we can utilise those to ensure that our healthcare workers are as safe as possible.”

Dr Durcan pointed out that healthcare workers account for around 25 per cent of confirmed Covid-19 cases nationally. 

While welcoming the procurement of the equipment from China, she said: “I hope we don’t put a line under that and say ‘PPE is sorted’ because this is a problem that is going to go on for months and months.

“I think we need to look down the track on this and keep acquiring as much as we can,” according to Dr Durcan.

“I think the same rule needs to be applied to our ventilators, oxygen supply, to anything that we are using at the frontline, because we are preparing for war.”

Dr Durcan described the attitude of healthcare staff as “phenomenal”, saying “they have stepped up to every question asked of them”.

“At the same time, I am scared for the staff; scared for the patients; and a bit scared for us all,” she said. 

“But the atmosphere and the morale has been nothing short of phenomenal.”

Meanwhile, a number of Irish GPs are in self-isolation, while others have already tested positive for Covid-19, MI understands. This is putting pressure on GP practices nationally, as remaining colleagues continue to run practices with fewer GPs available to assist. There are also reports of GPs in self-isolation continuing to work from home, such is the demand on general practice currently. 

According to Monaghan GP Dr Illona Duffy, Irish GPs are concerned about the spread of Covid-19 and their risk of contracting the virus. 

“GPs are very concerned because we don’t know what we are facing… are we going to be able to contain the virus?” questioned Dr Duffy. 

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