The army has started to ramp up its aid to the HSE in Cork by erecting tents outside a hospital, ferrying suspected Covid-19 cases to test centres and providing additional ambulances and personnel to the National Ambulance Service.
Meanwhile, the crew of the Naval Service flagship, LÉ Eithne, which is docked in the city’s Albert Quay, are gearing themselves up for any tasks the health authority should ask them to fulfil.
As part of ‘Operation Fortitude’, members of the Army’s Corps of Engineers (ARC) erected two tents outside Mercy University Hospital (MUH) yesterday.
ARC Capt Paul Finnegan said the tents, measuring 7.3m x 6.3m were similar to ones they have used in overseas missions in Chad and Liberia as accommodation and first aid units.
His soldiers ensured the tents were rigged up to electrical generators and heaters. It is understood the tents have been configured to accommodate six patients each – thereby increasing hospital capacity.
Military Police were deployed to direct traffic in the area as the soldiers assembled the tents.
Commandant Denise Burke said that members of the transport corps based at Collins Barracks are now using their fleet of transit vans to ferry people suspected of having the virus from around the city and county to the region’s largest testing centre at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
She confirmed that operation started on Wednesday morning and will continue for as long as the HSE requires.
Meanwhile, Comdt Burke said Defence Forces ambulances and Emergency Medical Technicians have been deployed to the National Ambulance Service local headquarters off the Kinsale Road roundabout to help out.
She said all of the 1,500-strong members of 1 Brigade, based in Collins Barracks, are ready to play whatever part they could to help the HSE in the battle against the virus.
Comdt Burke said the Defence Forces are in constant contact with HSE officials and are “reconfigerating” their personnel to help with any requests for assistance.
“We’re looking at all eventualities, including utilising the reserves (Reserve Defence Forces) if necessary. All of our assets are at the disposal of the HSE,” the officer said.
Some RDF personnel from Limerick and Waterford have already volunteered for duty with the Naval Service and are onboard LÉ Eithne.
“There is a great sense of camaraderie. It’s inspiring to see it on the ground,” Comdt Burke said.