Just 33 members of a 4,000-strong workforce at Cork University Hospital have tested positive for Covid-19.
Mary Horgan, consultant physician in infectious disease at CUH, said it was “probably one of the best hospitals in the country” in terms of levels of staff infection.
“There’s been 33 positive swabs in healthcare workers from a working population of about 4,000,” said Dr Horgan.
“That’s extremely low and I believe it’s a reflection of how well they’ve protected the staff here and allowed us to treat patients as best we can.”
Dr Horgan, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said that, in her 30 years treating infectious disease, she had “never seen anything like Covid-19”.
“I’m doing this for 30 years and I can tell you after looking after patients, I would not like to get this infection,” she said
The hospital has begun scaling up outpatient clinics from this week, with clinics re-opening off-site for care of the elderly, rheumatology, respiratory medicine and gastroenterology.
Paul Gallagher, consultant geriatrician, said they will be seeing urgent new referrals only for now.
“Hopefully it will ramp up, but we have to be very cautious,” said Dr Gallagher. “Appointments will be staggered and time allowed between appointments to clean the rooms, for protection of patients and staff.”
Liam Healy, clinical lead for stroke services at CUH said the number of stroke patients presenting had halved when the pandemic arrived, but numbers are now returning to normal.
Dr Healy said they have had very few stroke patients affected by Covid-19, even though some of the early indications were that a higher percentage of people with the virus would have strokes.
Richard Bambury, clinical lead for cancer services at CUH, said they had worked to make the hospital as safe as possible for cancer patients, creating a separate entrance and triage area, swabbing any suspected cases, and if they test positive “we don’t recommend chemotherapy”.
Chemotherapy suppresses the immune system, which heightens the risk to cancer patients in the event of Covid-19.
Dr Bambury said: “The risk-benefit ratio in some situations has changed. For some the risk might outweigh the benefits.”
In the past six weeks, 200 new patients have commenced radiotherapy and 50 have begun chemotherapy. Rapid access clinics for anyone with a high suspicion of cancer are continuing.
While the Covid-19 surge has not materialised at CUH — where the planning was for upwards of 100 ICU beds — doctors are concerned about the possibility of a future non-Covid surge, if people defer seeking treatment for other illnesses during the pandemic.