CUH capacity concern as Cork consultant warns of long Covid complications

CUH capacity concern as Cork consultant warns of long Covid complications

Dr Corinna Sadlier, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at Cork University Hospital. Picture Gerard McCarthy Photography 

A Cork consultant has warned that as the incidence of Covid-19 cases rises, and with the health system already under pressure, people need to do all they can to try and lessen the surge expected over the coming weeks.

Dr Corinna Sadlier, a consultant in infectious diseases at Cork University Hospital (CUH) said that hospitals are already very busy and that if hospitalisations increase, then the health system could become compromised.

“Hospitals are really busy at the moment. CUH is at capacity and we only have two or three patients in with Covid at the moment.

“Between the Covid wait, and the cyberattack, there's a huge amount of backlog [in the health system] that again the health service is running to capacity to try and catch up on our lists, to try and get people through the system that have time-dependent surgeries or care. We’ll be compromised again if the hospitalisations increase,” she said.

Dr Sadlier’s comments came as the latest figures show that the number of cases of Covid-19 being reported in Cork is rising.

Provisional figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, based on SARS CoV-2 results uploaded to the COVID Care Tracker, show that in the 14 days to July 21, a total of 835 cases of the virus were reported in Cork, while the five-day moving average of cases was 80.

Just two weeks prior on July 7, the five-day moving average was 19.

Dr Sadlier said that the case numbers are “definitely of concern” However she said that this wave is different to those which preceded it.

“What's different in this wave is that the vaccinations are holding up so well.

“The vaccination programme has been a phenomenal success really and it’s gaining momentum but we are not there yet.

A sign about social distancing. Picture Denis Minihane.
A sign about social distancing. Picture Denis Minihane.

“We’re very close, we really need to do everything we can to avoid a fourth wave.” The Cork consultant said that while vulnerable people are largely protected with vaccination, vaccines are not 100% effective.

She also noted that vaccines are being rolled out to younger people, who account for the majority of Covid-cases at the moment, but said that if large numbers of people get the virus, there will be more hospitalisations.

“Hopefully we wouldn’t be seeing the mortality that we did previously,” she said.

Dr Sadlier said that for young people who do require hospitalisation, that it will take time for them to recover.

“Beyond hospitalisations, deaths and case numbers, long Covid is an emerging issue,” she said.

“Long Covid can affect young people. It’s a secondary concern but actually, it can be very debilitating for young fit people - it can severely impact their wellness or quality of life,” she added.

Dr Sadlier said that they have seen a number of people with long Covid and more people are being referred to them.

“These are people who actually had relatively mild Covid. They didn’t require hospitalisation, they might not even have required a GP appointment and it’s in the weeks after their primary infection that they have developed different symptoms,” she said.

These symptoms include fatigue, new-onset difficulty breathing, decreased exercise tolerance, and brain fog or difficulty with memory and concentration.

“The symptoms are really broad-ranging and they are very non-specific. Long Covid for one person could mean something completely different for someone else - it certainly is an issue that people need to be aware of and need to think of,” the Cork consultant said.

As restrictions around indoor dining ease, and with people socialising more outdoors, Dr Sadlier warned that continued vigilance is needed.

“The Delta variant is a much more transmissible variant and we know the virus likes indoors - is spreads better indoors.” She also noted that the virus is known to spread outdoors.

“We are probably doing the masking, the distancing, staying outdoors, but with the Delta variant, if you are in a crowded group or even in a family group outdoors, the virus can spread.” Dr Sadlier said it is important to note that the symptoms associated with the Delta variant are much milder and said that even if someone has mild symptoms like hayfever, that they should be getting tested.

“If someone even gets symptoms like hayfever symptoms or a runny nose- you don't have to have a fever, you don't have to have a cough - we need to encourage people [to get tested].

“I think when people are on holiday and they have very mild symptoms that they can very well ignore it and carry on enjoying the holiday.

"People really need to be responsible and if they have any concerns to get a test because it’s really about breaking the chains of transmission.

“I can see if you are on holiday and a child has a runny nose, the last thing you are going to want to do is to be going getting a Covid test but that’s how we are actually going to stop the wave,” she said.

The consultant added: “People really need to be aware that the risk is increasing, that there is only a few weeks in it until our younger people are vaccinated and we need to try to avoid a big surge in cases and do as much as we can to lessen the surge that we are going to see in the coming weeks.” 

Meanwhile, Dr Sadlier advised anyone who may have been hesitant to receive the vaccine when they were offered it initially, that they can still receive it.

She said there is information available from the HSE on the vaccine and people can also speak to their GP.

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