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Covid testing system ‘overwhelmed’


TAKE THE VACCINE Crossmolina GP, Eleanor Loftus.

Oisín McGovern

A CROSSMOLINA GP has said that the Covid-19 testing system has been ‘overwhelmed’ due to the latest rise in cases numbers across the county.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday evening (Monday), Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald said that her practice is currently experiencing ‘a very high level of Covid positive patients’.
Dr Fitzgerald said GPs in other parts of the county were experiencing similar pressure.
A former member of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee, Dr Fitzgerald said that the omicron variant was causing less severe illness but that she was still having to refer patients to hospital who had tested positive.
”It’s minor illness in the majority, but there’s two today I’ve sent to hospital quite ill with it. We had a sudden death last week, [in someone who was] Covid positive but with other underlying conditions,“ said Dr Fitzgerald, whose practice had 20 PCR-confirmed Covid cases yesterday (Monday).
“It’s spreading around and affecting all classes. The workload is still very heavy, but you’re trying to maintain a routine practice so people can have routine check-ups done in the middle of a Covid pandemic.
“You have people afraid to come into you because of Covid, acute conditions. It’s a difficult area to navigate.”
The 14-day incidence of Covid-19 in Mayo has not been updated since December 22 last year.
It is estimated that the true number of confirmed cases nationally may be 40 percent higher than the official figure to do the lack of PCR testing capacity.

Five-day wait
Dr Fitzgerald said that one of her staff had to wait five days to get a PCR test appointment.
“The majority of people are very good. The majority are very sensible, they are restricting, isolating, phoning us, they are abiding by it. They have stuck to the guidelines and they have managed it themselves,” she said.
“The system is overwhelmed. I’m not critical of it, because nobody could have anticipated the level at which it did spread. I would have never have anticipated the level of spread that has happened.”
Dr Fitzgerald, who is also coroner for the North Mayo area, said that the current situation is less severe than last January, which saw very high levels of hospitalisation and death with Covid-19.
“The level of infection is upper respiratory [with the omicron variant], so the majority don’t have the same problems with lung function or breathing, but they may have a terrible cough alright and it’s more similar to a common cold. There isn’t the same alarm,” she said.
“This time last year there was panic. January last year was a really heavy month illness-wise.”
Dr Fitzgerald encouraged people to take the booster vaccine to prevent severe illness from Covid. She also said that the current wave of Covid could subside by March in line with current NPHET models.
“My concern is that we have patients who aren’t being vaccinated, believing whatever they are reading in the papers or on social media, and don’t realise that without the vaccination the death rate is so much higher. That’s why our message is the vaccine is the only show in town,” she said.