PEOPLE HAVE BEEN EXCEPTIONALLY PATIENT Dr Jerry Cowley pictured in Mulranny last weekend.
Dr Jerry Cowley celebrated 40 years of general practice in Mulranny last Wednesday, and it is fair to say he hasn’t endured a more challenging year than the last.
However, the well-known GP and former Mayo TD is very hopeful for the future and has witnessed a heartwarming shift in people’s mood after they received the vaccine.
“It is lovely to tell people that they can come in and receive the vaccine,” Dr Cowley told The Mayo News this week. “They are so overjoyed to come in. It is like a licence for them to leave their homes after the past year or so. There is a wonderful freedom apparent in people, particularly in people who may have been living at home alone or living in an isolated area,” he said.
Dr Cowley said that while some were concerned about taking the vaccine before the roll-out commenced, most people are eager to be vaccinated.
“There is very little fear of taking the vaccine apparent, which is fantastic. If you don’t take it, it is going to be harder for you to live a normal life,” he said.
He said delays in the vaccine roll-out have led to disappointments, but adds that most people have been pragmatic.
“Sometimes we might be told we are getting a certain number and we contact that number of people to give them a date and then it might transpire there’s a shortfall of 30 percent, so we’ve to ring those people back and let them know that they won’t be getting it just yet.
“There is a disappointment there, but everyone understands they will get it eventually. People have been exceptionally patient,” he said.
“They know it is not up to me as a GP to decide who is next either. There are delays, but I do think the Government are at the mercy of things beyond their control in terms of supply. It does take time,” he added.
In The Mayo News of December 8 last – in what sadly turned out to be a prophetic warning – Dr Cowley urged people in the county to watch the All-Ireland football final at home and to restrict their social contacts over the Christmas period. He said both had the capacity to be ‘highly dangerous’ for the county.
The sharp spike in Mayo numbers after Christmas confirmed his worst fears. The GP has since seen an improvement in behaviour and compliance.
“I expressed my fears in December about too much socialising around Christmas and the All-Ireland, but it is water under the bridge now. Things have settled down big time since then.
“For instance, there have been a lot less visitors to holiday homes in the area compared to other stages last year and those who have come down have stayed to themselves, so I think people have played by the rules much more in this lockdown,” he said.
Dr Cowley is also the driving force behind St Brendan’s Unit in Mulranny, which provides low-, medium- and high-support residential units for older people, many of them returning emigrants. The facility stayed Covid-free throughout the pandemic, something Dr Cowley speaks about with pride.
“It was great we managed to keep St Brendan’s free. Now all the residents have been vaccinated and we are starting to see visitors return, which is fantastic,” he said.
Turning a corner
Looking forward, Dr Cowley and many of his colleagues in general practice share one concern, that there could be a wave of patient presentations with other conditions after the pandemic.
“There are delays with hospital appointments and scans, and also people might be less inclined to visit or contact their GP with a concern they might have. I would advise people if they have an issue to contact their GP. I fear we might only be seeing the tip of the iceberg right now in terms of people having issues. That will come more and more apparent in the months and years ahead. If you have a concern, please contact us. Even a phone consultation can be a big help,” he said.
Overall, however, Dr Cowley feels the corner is being turned.
“All told we’re moving to a new place now with the vaccine roll-out and there’s a sense of hope and confidence for the future out there now.”