NEW images have given the first real look inside Cork University Hospital in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Frontline staff at CUH have been working around the clock to control the virus outbreak, with medical professionals, cleaning staff, porters, catering staff and others going above and beyond the call of duty during the national and global emergency.
Images commissioned by the HSE have given a vivid insight into life inside the hospital, showing the extraoridnary efforts of all staff to save lives.
Figures from this week revealed a hospital by hospital breakdown of the covid-19 cases.
More than 60 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 are receiving treatment at acute hospitals in Cork.
Data showed that at 8pm on Wednesday, 31 people with confirmed COVID-19 were receiving care at Cork University Hospital (CUH), while 13 patients were on site at the Mercy Hospital.
An additional 18 people with suspected COVID-19 were also receiving care at Cork hospitals, nine at CUH and nine at the Mercy.
Senior consultants at CUH told The Echo this week how the hospital has managed to rise to the challenge.
Dr Corinna Sadlier, who is a consultant in infectious diseases in Cork, said the hospital is prepared to deal with an influx of cases.
She pointed out that while the number of people in CUH with COVID-19 was increasing, and new patients were being admitted, others were also being discharged.
Despite the many difficulties hospitals around the world are facing amid the pandemic, Dr Sadlier said that CUH was “coping well”.
She acknowledged issues around personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers in general, but said management at CUH was going “above and beyond” to provide PPE and training to staff and were very transparent around supplies which she said is reassuring for staff.
She stressed that everyone in the hospital was involved in the response to the pandemic, but paid particular tribute to the cleaners and housekeeping staff at CUH who she said were carrying out vital work.
She pointed out that there was “no big jump in numbers” here but instead a steady increase.
”We think it is down to physical distancing here, maybe population density, it’s hard to explain how we are doing so well,” she said.
She paid tribute to all workers at CUH.
“I’ve never seen unity, comradery like this. Nobody is saying no to anybody. Everyone is willing to support the efforts. Everything is being provided and nothing is too much. It’s remarkable really.”
Meanwhile, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI), Cork-based consultant Professor Mary Horgan, recently returned to work at the frontline of the outbreak at CUH.
The former Dean of the School of Medicine at UCC, said CUH was coping with the challenges so far.
Describing Covid-19, she said: “It impacts on absolutely everyone. It’s how unusually it presents, with 80% of people having a relatively mild illness, 20% being hospitalised, and around 5% of these patients becoming critically ill.
“It’s the unpredictable nature — the effect on healthy young people, people in their 30s,40s, 50s, 60s, who become very unwell, very quickly.”
Prof Horgan told The Echo this week that there are a number of positive signs in the outbreak.
“The interventions that were made by the Government really have worked, people are following the guidelines. Had we not done that, the situation here would be more like the US or the UK.”
Prof Horgan also pointed out how the numbers relating to the volume of patients in critical care had flattened in the last week.
“The big question now is how we can lift some of the restrictions,” she said.
Earlier this week, a number of schools in Denmark re-opened their doors for the first time in a month.
Prof Horgan said it was difficult to say whether some schools could re-open here in a similar way, but that Ireland will be looking closely at how things are being done in countries like Denmark and Austria.
“It will be good to see what the experience is there,” she said.
“When it is done here, it will be done in a very cautious way. There will be a slow, stepwise, carefully-monitored lifting of the restrictions here.
Yesterday, almost 200 UCC medical students graduated and are now heading to work on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
The graduates were addressed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in an unprecedented event, which saw a total of 197 graduates conferred - the first in UCC’s 175-year history to be conducted entirely online.
One of the graduates, Robert Shannon, said the occasion was indeed a "pretty bizarre" affair.
Dr Shannon, who also has a BSc in Neuroscience from UCC and an MSc in Immunology and Global Health from Maynooth University, said it was a graduation like no other.
"It was a bit of a change from the usual pageantry of conferrings," he laughed.
"It was pretty bizarre alright and a small bit of an anticlimax after all the work but I think it's a testament to the class group that almost 200 of us made it out the other side when the exams were brought forward," he said.
The graduates are set to begin their posts from May 25, joining the frontline in the battle against Covid-19.
Dr Shannon says he is used to working in hospital environments but the daunting prospect is entering into his preferred area, infectious diseases - heading "directly into the trenches".