Please stop calling 999 or 112 for coronavirus information, says HSE

Liam Woods says all 13 confirmed cases in Ireland were being treated in hospital

The HSE’s national director of acute operations Liam Woods said anyone seeking information should phone 1850 24 1850 or to use www.hse.ie. Photograph: PA

The HSE’s national director of acute operations Liam Woods said anyone seeking information should phone 1850 24 1850 or to use www.hse.ie. Photograph: PA

 

The HSE’s national director of acute operations Liam Woods has asked members of the public not to call emergency numbers 999 or 112 seeking information about the coronavirus.

He told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland these numbers were for emergencies only and anyone seeking information should phone 1850 24 1850 or to use the live chat facility on www.hse.ie.

Mr Woods said it was now likely that more cases will be diagnosed in the State, but he said the majority of people will be able to cope with the virus in their own home.

Contact tracing in the first case of community transmission in Cork has been completed, he said and people who were in contact with the patient have gone into voluntary self-isolation.

He said all 13 confirmed cases in Ireland were being treated in hospital as per European Centre for Disease Control guidelines, “should numbers grow that position will be reversed. The majority can manage the condition at home.”

Mr Woods said all hospitals have plans in place having carried out risk assessments and said the health service will create capacity where necessary.

Contingency planning will make sure that there is adequate space, he added.

Health care workers who may have been in infectious areas in other countries are being asked to self-isolate and measures are in place to ensure that hospitals have the necessary equipment “to do their job,” he said.

Meanwhile, emergency medicine consultant Dr Fergal Hickey has said having coronavirus patients in an emergency department was similar to “bringing a drum of petrol to a house fire.”

It is worrying to consider the impact of the virus on emergency departments “where, at the best of times, there is not enough space,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show.

“It is completely inappropriate for a patient who is feeling unwell to turn up at emergency departments wanting to be tested.”

That is dangerous and unhelpful, “these people are getting in the way,” he added.

Commenting on the case at Cork University Hospital (CUH) where a case of community transmission of Covid-19 was confirmed, Dr Hickey said he understood the patient had presented with pneumonia and had been in the emergency department for an extended period of time before being diagnosed.

All the staff and other patients who were in the emergency department during that time were all “potentially at risk”.

“We’re going to have to worry about the impact on emergency departments, where, at the best of times there is not enough space.”

With regard to the reported 60 staff at CUH who have been instructed to self-isolate because they came in contact with the patient, Dr Hickey pointed out that they were specialist staff and it would be difficult to find replacement staff.

“These are specialist clinicians, they have an expertise that you cannot just get from somewhere else. It would be like putting someone into an operating theatre and expecting them to know what to do.”

Dr Hickey said information and advice so far from the HSE and National Public Health Emergency Team was “perfect” and the process of consideration and treatment algorithms were of the highest order.

However, Dr Hickey warned any changes would pose a major challenge as hospitals “do not have the capacity to isolate from the front door” and with many patients it will not be obvious that they do not have the virus until tested.

Dr Hickey said he did not want to mix coronavirus patients with vulnerable patients.