Ireland’s top trauma doctors, concerned about the forthcoming covid19 surge, are pleading with the public to reconsider doing house improvement jobs as they’re already seeing an upsurge in DIY accidents.
Injuries range from busted fingers from hammers to open fractures from falling off roofs and ladders, to plastic surgeons seeing patients with their fingers sheared off from utilising garden equipment like hedge strimmers. As there’ll still be car crashes, strokes and heart attacks during the expected corona crisis, hurt DIYers and risk takers need to understand their actions will soon put pressure on crucial hospital staff.
“Human and physical resources are going to be stretched to the limit and perhaps beyond during this crisis. It’s the experience elsewhere that this may affect our ability to manage other non Covid related illnesses and accidents. Outcomes may be affected; unfortunately this may mean people do not survive things that they ordinarily would," says orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Keith Synnott, National Clinical Lead for Trauma Services.
Ordinarily, some 50% of accidents happen in the home but Mr Synnott says now families are together more and the weather is improving those statistics might even increase and the public should be mindful that theatre nurses are going to be pulled into ICU, anaesthetists are needed for patients on ventilators, surgeons will be considering other options like surgical block, while physiotherapists will be doing chest physio with coivid19 patients to help clear lungs and facilitate breathing.
In Italy operating theatres have even been turned into ICU as medics fight the corona virus, something which could even happen here depending on how our crisis evolves.
"That ladder you’ve got out is it safe; do you know what you’re doing? If you are knowingly doing something dangerous, if you are acting irresponsibly or taking risks and get injured you will be taking away time from doctors who might really need to be doing something else,” Mr Synnott says.
Consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at Cork University Hospital, SIVUH and the Mater Cork, Mr Padhraig OLoughlin says doctors don’t want to alarm the public unduly; patients will still be seen, though options will be different.
Splints are currently replacing casts and there’ll continue to be virtual fracture clinics to eliminate the need for return patient visits. Mr O’Loughlin says people should not ignore minor things like broken fingers if they happen as some injuries are time-sensitive for repair.
Irish hospitals are doing everything they can to reduce people needing to come to hospital during the covid19 crisis, not only to relieve pressure on staff, but also because they don’t want people exposed unnecessarily to the possibility of covid19 infection.
Mr O’Loughlin also urges anyone minding older people at this time to keep an eye out and eliminate as much any possible fall risks. Cork University Hospital is one of the biggest trauma centres in the country, already cases are being diverted to the South Infirmary to keep CUH as clear as possible for the corona wave to come.
However, the public need to realise, in the near future, “the people who would normally be involved in your care might be redirected to someone who needs greater care. Anaesthesia resources will be tight. Accidents happen but the public still needs to understand; these are extraordinary times. The system can get overwhelmed very quickly,” Mr O’Loughlin adds.
Trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, Mr Derek Cawley of the Mater Private, Dublin runs two websites; myorthoclinic.com a free online resource which gives general information on musculoskeletal injuries and spineacademy.ie an information resource on spines and backs.
As the weather improves he says this is the time when trampolines and skates, “come back into fashion” but skate and trampolines, “account for quite a significant amount of accidents.”
Many injuries could be prevented however with some foresight; wrist and elbow guards prevent wrists getting broken and elbows getting smashed while, according to Derek Cawley, most injuries on trampolines occur from either no nets, individuals of different weight/sizes bouncing together, one child doing a stunt while being recorded by another not paying attention, or adults, who after a few drinks, think they can perform stunts. Inside the home also poses risks.
"It’s also possible that with people social distancing there might not be as much contact with an older relative, they, or perhaps a carer need to be especially aware of mats, rugs and wet floors, also older people taking certain medications might be dizzy in the morning getting up or going to the toilet.”
The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland are also issuing reminders to the farming community about vigilance. In a statement they’ve said, “with schools closed and children at home, it’s vital that farmers keep children safe and away from the dangerous areas on farms.”
They especially urge that children always play in a secure area away from all work activities in full view of the dwelling house. As well as tips for farmers they’ve issued tips for employees working from home which can be accessed on their website hsa.ie or on twitter @thehsa