A Cork consultant said Ireland needs to protect and beef up its stock of medical equipment, as he warned of a “tsunami” of coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.
“We are going to need ventilators,” said Dr Oisin O’Connell, a Consultant Respiratory Physician at the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork
“I know the Department of Health has been working extremely hard in the background to try to get our ventilator numbers up.”
Dr O'Connell said the United States and countries across Europe are now realising the importance of such equipment and the need to source it rapidly.
“I do think we have to be quite protective of the equipment we have in our country because we are going to be needing it in the coming weeks and months,” he added.
With fears of an equipment shortage growing, ICU doctors in Ireland are showing colleagues how to use a single ventilator on more than one patient.
“We would never have even considered that a month ago and it’s not best practice but when you’re in an emergency wartime situation, that is what you do,” said Dr O’Connell.
“Decisions are made for the greater good in this type of situation.”
Dr O’Connell and other leading Irish medics have spoken with doctors on the frontline in Italy and China in recent weeks.
“They’ve been warning us that we need to increase our ventilator supply ten-fold,” he said.
“We’re learning a lot from our Chinese counterparts and we’re a little fearful about what’s to come when we hear what’s going on in Italy.”
Dr O’Connell explained that although hand hygiene and social distancing are crucial measures in the fight against Covid-19, they may not be enough on their own.
He cited the need for decisive action and highlighted China’s measures as an example.
“We’re seeing phenomenal data coming out of China suggesting that early quarantine and population restriction and draconian measures to stop the spread of even a single case in the community has actually ended up with economic benefits,” said Dr O’Connell.
He added that the government must decide whether their main concern is the economy or saving lives - a hard decision being hampered by the UK’s inaction on the issue.
“This is essentially war time medicine,” said Dr O’Connell. “Decisions need to be made quickly.”