The people of Cork got their first glimpse inside Cork University Hospital (CUH) during the battle against Covid-19 in April of last year.
Images commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) gave people a vivid insight into life inside the hospital, showing the extraordinary efforts of all staff to save lives as staff worked around the clock to control the outbreak of the new virus.
It is almost one year since Covid-19 hit Cork hospitals. The Irish health system would experience a year like no other during a global pandemic and frontline staff would become the heroes fighting to keep the virus at bay.
Clinical Lead and Consultant in Emergency Medicine at CUH, Dr Conor Deasy reflects on the last 11 months at the forefront of the battle against the virus.
Speaking to The Echo, he said that Covid-19 first arrived at CUH in an unexpected form.
“We expected a returning traveller from China or Italy with a cough, shortness of breath and fever,” he said.
Our first patient presented with headaches and it was later into his stay that his respiratory symptoms became more predominant by which stage many staff and other patients had been in close contact with him.
"He had no obvious links to the countries associated with Covid-19.
“At that time, our emergency department had a corridor on which patients on trolleys would wait for admission to an inpatient bed in the wards for many hours. CUH had a rude awakening to the reality of Covid as a consequence of this case.
“That dark two decades of corridors wedged with trolleys was over, we hope, banished forever."
In early March, over 60 staff members at CUH were forced to self-isolate and a crisis management team was launched.
Dr Deasy said a new assessment and ward spaces were immediately created in order to keep patients safe from the risk of contracting the virus from fellow patients.
There were many long days and sleepless nights as we tried to figure ways to outwit this virus.
"We devoured the medical reports coming from China and Italy and elsewhere translating them quickly into practice.
"We witnessed the coffin trucks in Lombardy and the death toll it was having and we feared for what was ahead for our community."
He said that knowledge and education was shared like never before over the last 11 months, and issues such as supply issues with PPE for frontline staff were overcome “with thanks at times to local industry”.
Although Cork hospitals were not as badly hit as other hospitals across the country in the first wave of the virus, the same cannot be said now, with CUH having the highest number of cases for much of the third wave.
Dr Deasy said that although medical professionals know more about the virus now, that “the challenge is far greater now too”.
“Our ICU is very stretched, the hospital's staffed beds are full, and new patients still come, sick and needing our care,” he said.
However, looking forward, Dr Deasy said we will come out the other side of the pandemic and urged people to take personal responsibility for their actions and to adhere to restrictions.
Spring will come, we will come out the other side of this pandemic and have evolved as a hospital and as a society and look back on this time as our ancestors looked back on the war years.
“Let's focus on that light at the end of this tunnel associated with the vaccine roll out; we each have a personal responsibility to get ourselves to that brighter place by minimising our social contacts and staying safe."