'Fear factor' among older people needing to attend Cork Emergency Departments

Dr John Sheehan, of Blackpool Bridge Surgery, has admitted that doctors are finding it challenging to persuade people to attend hospitals for further treatment due to the high numbers of patients being recorded on trolleys in recent weeks.
'Fear factor' among older people needing to attend Cork Emergency Departments

Dr John Sheehan, of Blackpool Bridge Surgery, has admitted that doctors are finding it challenging to persuade people to attend hospitals for further treatment due to the high numbers of patients being recorded on trolleys in recent weeks. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

A GP has said there is a “fear factor” surrounding attending Emergency Departments (ED) in Cork, especially among older people, as many are afraid they will end up on a trolley for a couple of days.

Dr John Sheehan, of Blackpool Bridge Surgery, has admitted that doctors are finding it challenging to persuade people to attend hospitals for further treatment due to the high numbers of patients being recorded on trolleys in recent weeks.

Dr Sheehan, who is also a Fianna Fáil councillor, said older people especially don’t want to go to EDs, adding that there is a fear factor.

“It is very hard sometimes to persuade people who are unwell to go into hospital. You can totally understand why. That is our biggest challenge. They think they could be on a trolley for a couple of days.

“There is a fear factor. They are afraid their family mightn’t be able to come visit.

“If you are sick you need to be seen. That is the bottom line,” Dr Sheehan continued.

“You might be waiting, but you will be seen. I would much rather see a person or have them ring than have them worrying at home if should they go or should they not go.”

“The main advice is if you are feeling sick, have a temperature or are coughing is to avoid visiting elderly relatives and be mindful as you don’t want them getting sick.”

Dr Sheehan said the festive season saw a huge volume of calls which were mainly flu, respiratory and Covid.

“It was very busy particularly in SouthDoc. There was a huge volume of calls. It was mainly viral and illnesses, flu, and a bit of Covid. It was mainly phone calls with Covid. People are very responsible and doing antigen tests. During the pandemic we really didn’t see flus or respiratory virus’ so now children are being exposed to these things for the first time. We are getting the equivalent of a couple of years’ worth of stuff all coming up together.

“The two biggest groups were the young children and elderly. Most adults when they get these viral infections, they know they are sick, but they usually can manage it themselves. They just rest up. 

"For younger children people are more concerned about their feeding and older people have underlying illness.”

Meanwhile, Bantry-based GP Dr Paul O’Sullivan echoed Dr Sheehan’s sentiments on how busy the festive season was for medical practitioners.

“It has been an extremely busy Christmas period. The vast majority of cases were respiratory with a couple of Covid cases. My colleagues in the city have been overwhelmed with calls. This will be par for the course for the next few weeks. It can be busy in winter time” he said.

“The majority of people we can steer away from hospital,” Dr O’Sullivan said. “We will get the few cases which are very severe, and they will end up in hospital. They need somewhere to go but the service is overwhelmed. The service can’t cope.” Dr O’Sullivan said some people are forgetting the rules of washing hands and wearing a mask.

“A lot of people have forgotten what happened over the last three years. I can count on one hand the number of people wearing masks and people are congregating and socialising. We are paying the price for it now,” he said.

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