Overcrowding in Cork emergency departments (EDs) would make preventing any potential coronavirus outbreak very difficult, a Cork expert in emergency medicine and public health has warned.
Chris Luke, consultant in emergency medicine and adjunct senior lecturer in public health at UCC, was speaking to The Echo after almost 100 people were left on trolleys in Cork hospitals yesterday.
Dr Luke warned that such conditions would impact infection prevention and control measures in the event of a coronavirus (Covid-19) case, the illness which has killed thousands across the globe, but is yet to be seen in Ireland.
Dr Luke said that while hospital staff are well-trained to deal with a coronavirus case or cases, overcrowded conditions in hospitals would make dealing with any potential outbreak very difficult.
He highlighted the impact overcrowding had on the Sars epidemic in Toronto in 2003.
“The outbreak was made infinitely worse because a patient returned from Hong Kong and attended an ED in Toronto where people were on trolleys cheek by jowl,” Dr Luke said.
“As a result, there was an explosive epidemic in which staff and other patients were infected and lots of people died.
“It is very difficult for people to do what they need to do in these conditions, such as washing their hands, sneezing into tissues and keeping their distance.
“We’re told that social distance between people is a vital part of the isolation and prevention process in coronavirus containment, but that is close to impossible in an overcrowded emergency department.”
He also highlighted the need for more resources in Cork to prevent such conditions.
“We need another 1,000 beds in the city,” he said. “I’ve been pleading with the powers that be for the past 25 years to give us more space, more beds and more staff.”
Dr Luke said Cork is short at least 10 emergency medicine consultants, 30 ED nursing staff, and 20 non-consultant hospital doctors.