One Irish Hospital and the HSE were dangerously asleep at the wheel last week. And here’s why….

One of the talking points in Ireland since the first cases of coronavirus have hit our shores surrounds information. Specifically, how much information authorities should reveal to the general public. On the one hand our public servants and officials do not want to create widespread panic and on the other Irish people wanted to know exactly what inbound flight that first victim of the coronavirus was on. People have an insatiable appetite to know what is going on.

Yesterday, one of our national radio stations had a number of ‘proper’ journalists on the airwaves. They were wrestling this very question. On Saturday I published an Interview with a woman who was tested for the coronavirus last week in a Dublin hospital. Her experience at the very least raised questions about how co-ordinated the Irish health system is, as it relates to the HSE leadership and the men and women on the front-line of our Hospital emergency rooms. I published it because it raised questions. I published it because they need a rapid injection of emergency resources.

Today, I followed up with the woman at the centre of that Interview. The sensationalist in me would scream that what she relayed to me was more shocking than the original interview. But for the purposes of this piece, I will just say that what she said raises questions. Valid questions.

Original Interview with Jane – Click here

Jane ( not her real name ) is still walking around Dublin with a temperature of 39 degrees and trying to get treatment for what is wrong with her. As I related in the Interview, she tested negative for coronavirus on Tuesday of last week but equally she still hasn’t got to the bottom of her problems. The fact it was last Tuesday is possibly a critical point because at that stage Ireland still did not have a confirmed case of the virus. That would happen 36 hours later.

Jane has a daughter and responsible person that she is, Jane rang her local school this morning to relate the experiences she had and her brush with COVID-19 and the Irish health service. She had tested negative but still believed that maybe the school had a right to know that she was tested. No-one in the hospital last week told her that she ought to do this by the way.

The School principal immediately rang the HSE to take advice. Within minutes he texted back the following.

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I would remind you all that Jane was very unhappy with the treatment she received last week and was livid that she was being discharged on the Tuesday night. So much so she returned to her GP on the Wednesday and re-presented back at the hospital on the same day. They more or less told her to go away. Now today, on the Monday – the school principal of her daughters school is telling Jane that she needs to be immediately re-tested along with her daughter.

Jane spent approximately 90 minutes trying to get through to someone on this number. Eventually her call was answered and Jane was told she had to wait 24 hours for a public health nurse to call her back. In the meantime the school rang Jane 3 or 4 times for updates. Jane then rang her GP and the GP told her they can’t look at her or her daughter until the HSE and public health nurse get back to her. As of 5 pm this evening Jane is still waiting for that call.

So let’s take a breath now and do a recap. A mother, daughter and family are in a panic. A Dublin school and staff is in a panic. The parents of 170 kids of that school are also in a panic. All these people are in a state of distress because they are waiting for a co-ordinated response from our public health services. The school remains open but the leadership of the school have advised parents that if they do not feel comfortable sending their child to school they may keep them at home. The school leadership have done the most responsible thing that they can in the circumstances. Again it is obvious that the Department of Education and the Department of Health have not role played every scenario in advance.

No doubt that phone-call from the public health nurse/ HSE will come eventually but it signals a Health Service that is not prepared. A health service that has not prepared. It also seems obvious that the HSE approach to the coronavirus altered once the virus was confirmed on our shores.

How can I level that accusation?

What proof do I have?

When the school principal spoke to the HSE she was able to inform Jane that even though she tested negative on Tuesday night, the protocol states that she needs to be retested within 7 -10 days as the virus can sometimes not be picked up in the early stages. This piece of information was a shock to Jane. She was basically begging not to be discharged last Tuesday night from hospital. Once the hospital had Jane in isolation they should have kept her in isolation until confirmation of a second negative. This did not happen. Surely if this was HSE policy the hospitals would have been aware last Tuesday/Wednesday.

Another key failing was no-one in the hospital stated that she needed to be re-tested within 7-10 days. Was that the official policy last week? – The fact that it was the school principal that was left to relay this information to her, via his communication with the HSE, and not a medical professional beggars belief.

If Ireland are to be successful in containing the virus it will be through a rigorous response at local authority level. The decisions and actions that need to be made on a town to town basis. Schools, local health workers, local authorities, Gardai and yes even the army might need to be brought in to lend assistance. There is no evidence Ireland is prepared on this micro level. I started this article by talking about questions. Here are a few someone should be asking the Minister of Health and the Head of the HSE.

  1. Have the government dedicated emergency funding for extra resources and if so how much?
  2. Have HSE protocols changed since the confirmation of a case in Ireland?
  3. How many additional resources have the government authorized in the last few days and are they actively recruiting them?
  4. Have the HSE and government identified emergency quarantine sites and are they going to publish them?
  5. Have HSE reached out to retired Health professionals to assist in the response?
  6. Has each and every local county council authority an executable plan to respond to each outbreak of coronavirus as it occurs at a local level?
  7. Have the government a stockpile of the necessary equipment and supplies to deal with shortages.
  8. Are the government advising people to stockpile dry food supplies and if not why not?

These are just a few questions I have and I’m sure that you have many of your own. Proper Journalists and the Irish government talk about the need for not creating panic amongst the general public. The general public don’t panic needlessly. They panic about  legitimate questions not being answered. They can figure out the illegitimate questions and scaremongering for themselves.

As I finish this piece up, I am reminded of a scene from the popular US TV series ‘Shameless’ – in it, one of the main characters, the flawed genius Lip Gallagher, unsurprisingly shows up late to one of his college classes. The professor seeking to embarrass him for his late arrival ask him to define ‘ Critical Theory’ – He pauses for a moment and answers the question in two words.

‘Question Everything ‘

It’s a response all ‘proper journalists’ should heed at this time.

In the meantime if you think you might have symptoms or are at risk the HSE number is 1-850-241-850.

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