Hospital CEO: Patients and staff cannot go through lockdown 'trauma' again

Hospital CEO: Patients and staff cannot go through lockdown 'trauma' again

Margaret Finn, Director of Nursing, Emer Martin, Chief Executive and Emer McLoughlin, Clinical Nurse Manager, St John’s Hospital Limerick. Picture: Arthur Ellis.

The CEO of a hospital which was "almost overwhelmed" by Covid-19 last April is warning that patients, families, and frontline workers cannot be put through something similar again.

CEO of St John’s hospital in Limerick, Emer Martin said that everything possible “must be done to avoid the trauma of last spring.” 

Ms Martin said that staff at her hospital worked though “unprecedented challenges” during the height of the pandemic in March and April, and that unless the public responded to the new level 5 lockdown measures, there was a “grave risk” of a restricted Christmas period, and a “return to the worst days of Covid.” 

She said: “Right now, we are on something of a tight-rope across the country and it could go either way.  

If we don’t adhere to the measures, we could be turning back the clock to last April and May in terms of the impact on life.

"We know what that looks like and it’s dreadful. We would never want to see our staff here go through that again or patients and their families.

Echoing Ms Martin’s views, Clinical Nurse Manager at St John’s, Emer McLaughlin said that there was a time around Easter when she and her colleagues felt like they were on a “sinking ship”. 

She said: “This was completely different. I could feel this tightness in my chest.

"If one patient tested positive here, then all the close contacts of all staff, of all disciplines that had looked after that patient, then they all had to go and self-isolate, which meant we had phenomenal levels of staff in self-isolation for 14 days."

Indeed, at one particular point in April, 80 of St John's 300 frontline staff were quarantined.

Paying tribute to her staff, Ms Martin said that "decisions were being made faster," and "being asked to do different things, and no one thought twice."

"We were in the middle of a storm trying to hold on, but you could see the determination,” she said. 

Both Ms Martin and McLaughlin were speaking ahead of the release of a short documentary about the staff and volunteers at St John's.

Also featured in the documentary is recently retired Director of Nursing at St. John’s, Margaret Finn, who postponed her retirement to help the fight against Covid-19 in the spring.  

In the documentary, Ms Martin said: “It's been the worst of times. And then again, it's been the best of times because we have seen such bravery in that staff had stayed on, worked long hours, supported patients, didn't walk away, even though at times it was very frightening."

You can watch the short documentary about St John’s Hospital, Limerick here.

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