What exactly happens at a Covid-19 test centre? An update from your Health Service Team in the midlands

Una Fallon, Consultant in Public Health Medicine

Reporter:

Una Fallon, Consultant in Public Health Medicine

Email:

newsroom@longfordleader.ie

Coronavirus is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. To infect you, it has to get from an infected person's nose or mouth into your eyes, nose or mouth. You could get the virus if you come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing or if you touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on.

The most important thing you can do is protect yourself and protect others. Do this by washing your hands properly and often. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze and put used tissues into a bin. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Avoid close contact with others by keeping a distance of two metres between you and others.

If you are waiting on a test to see if you have Covid-19 or you have been tested and are waiting for the results you need to stay home and self-isolate. If you have any symptoms, assume you have Covid-19 and isolate yourself for 14 days to prevent spreading any potential infection to others and to help stop the spread of this disease.

For information on protecting yourself and others, please visit www.hse.ie or telephone HSELive on 1850 24 1850.

Following the government announcement on the additional restrictions, we all need to work together to protect people who may be more at risk of serious illness if they catch coronavirus. But we do not think these groups have a higher risk of catching coronavirus.

You can find information for At Risk Groups which has all the necessary advice and guidance. The advice now is for everyone to follow the stay at home advice. Ask others to shop for you. They can leave supplies at your door. You do not need to self-isolate unless you have symptoms of coronavirus. If you are caring for someone in an at-risk group, follow the If you are caring for someone in an at-risk group, follow the advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus.

Read also: People are uncertain as to what exactly the 2km restriction applies to

Significant work in the past couple of weeks has been undertaken across the Midlands and Louth, Meath, to deliver community testing. There are now drive-thru centres in Tullamore, Portlaoise, St Loman’s in Westmeath and DKIT Dundalk  and clinics in Athlone, Longford, Oldcastle and Navan with plans to increase capacity.

The sampling service is being provided on an appointment-only basis and only those who are displaying symptoms and have been referred (to the drive through) by their GP will be seen. At no stage will visitors to the centres leave their car.

Once checked in at the entrance, visitors will be provided with a face mask, tissues and disposable bag and directed to a test bay attended by healthcare workers wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). At this point, visitors will be asked to blow their nose and dispose of the tissue in the bag provided. A throat and nose swab will then be taken and the visitor will leave the facility and return to self-isolation.

There has been limited testing nationally because of  the limited supply of testing materials. A delivery of testing kits was due yesterday and there will be further deliveries during the week. The HSE advises that if a person is waiting on a test should continue to self-isolate. If their symptoms worsen they should call their GP. If they have difficulty breathing or are feeling very unwell they should call 112 or 999 and tell them about their symptoms.

A significant announcement by Government relates to Cocooning. This is a measure to protect people who are over 70 years of age or those who are extremely medically vulnerable by minimising all interaction between them and others.

The HSE welcomes this initiative of Government and is strongly advising people over 70 years of age and those with serious underlying medical conditions which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to rigorously follow cocooning measures in order to keep themselves safe.

To people in this category we say you are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of 2 weeks (This period is being kept under review). 

The main cocooning measures are:

1.       Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.

2.       Do not leave your house.

3.       Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces for example family homes, weddings and religious services.

4.       Do not go out for shopping and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.

5.       Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

6.       Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

7.       Ensure you keep phones/devices charged, and have credit on your phone so that you can stay connected.

Pat Bennett, Chief Officer, HSE Midlands, Louth and Meath said, “We would like to acknowledge the tremendous support that we have got from our local communities as we implement the government action plan in response to Covid19.

"We can’t stop the virus, but together, we can reduce the impact it has on ourselves, our families, communities, our health service and our day-to-day lives. Our goal is to slow the spread of coronavirus.

"If we can slow it down, we give ourselves, and our most vulnerable people, more options and more time for care and recovery. Our collective efforts are critical, we need to do this together, as one community. We will be asking everyone to play their part, to help each other.”

The HSE has appealed for the privacy of those staffing and visiting the centres to be respected.

Trevor O’Callaghan CEO Dublin Midlands Hospital Group said, “In all our hospitals a huge amount of work has taken place over the last number of weeks to prepare for an increase in COVID 19 cases and I want to acknowledge the commitment and dedication of all our staff as we prepare for this unprecedented public health emergency.

"We have moved and reconfigured existing inpatient wards to facilitate the treatment of suspected and confirmed COVID 19 patients in the safest possible way. In our ICUs we have we have plans for extra critical care capacity to allow us treat more patients, should that be required and extra critical care equipment have been ordered for all our ICUs and are due for delivery in the coming week."

Across the hospitals medical, nursing staff and some of our Therapy staff have undergone extra specialised training to enable them to support their critical care colleagues as and when the numbers of patients requiring hospital treatment increases. We have been in contact with the private hospitals in the region and are planning with them how they can support us to deliver care to our patients. 

We have cancelled all but urgent cancer and time critical procedures, diagnostics and outpatient appointments. We are contacting patients directly to advise them if their appointment is going ahead and reminding all those who are due to attend the hospital, not to do so if they have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Visiting restrictions continue in our hospitals with the exception of end of life situations and we expect that to continue over the coming weeks. We fully appreciate how difficult that is for our patients and their families but we must do it to protect our patients in the first instance but also our staff”.

 Please remember, our EDs remain open 24/7 for people who are seriously ill or injured and if their life is at risk. Stroke and heart attacks are life-threatening medical emergencies. If you or someone else is showing signs of a stroke or heart attack, don’t wait, call 999.

Read next: Covid-19 advice from Public Health doctor for the Midlands who reaches out to local people to play their part