HEALTH services in Cork and across the country are set to be hit by a “perfect storm” as already overstretched hospitals and community services prepare for a possible flu pandemic, a Cork GP has warned.
Australia has experienced a record number of influenza cases in summer and autumn this year and the illness is expected to hit Ireland in the coming weeks.
Speaking to The Echo, Cork GP Dr Nick Flynn warned: “There’s a bad winter coming.
“The intensive care units and emergency departments across Ireland have been under so much pressure during the summer and spring, and this will only increase in the coming months.
“We used to experience summer troughs and winter peaks in terms of demand and pressure on health services. However, the summer troughs have been ebbing out over the past few years and they’re basically gone.
“What we’re experiencing now is year-round pressure.
“If we experience the flu pandemic that is predicted to hit this winter, planned activity in hospitals will be seriously disrupted and urgent care will be made even more difficult. It will affect capacity everywhere.
“There’s a perfect storm brewing because of a system that’s operating at capacity even during quiet periods — and an expected flu pandemic,” said Dr Flynn.
“The figures from Asia and Australia indicate that this flu will be very virulent, it will spread quickly, and it will also be very aggressive.
“This will result in more people having flu complications and requiring hospital treatment.
“More people will require GP visits and more will be attending hospitals, which is not in anyway capable of taking on more patients because the hospital system is full to capacity.”
Dr Flynn urged everyone, not just the elderly or those suffering from chronic illnesses, to avail of the vaccine. “Everybody should go and get their vaccine, not just those that the HSE recommends,” he said.
“We need to try to stop this flu circulating in the community and that’s what will stop it spreading.
“The HSE says it’s recommended for people over the age of 65 or those with chronic illnesses but if we want to stop it spreading, everyone should get it.
“The HSE should be urging everyone to go and get it.”
Dr Flynn also warned that unless capacity and resources are increased, the entire health sector will be affected.
“It might take a year or two to filter through fully but GP surgeries will basically become chronic disease management workshops, similar to hospital outpatient departments.”