Number of Covid patients in hospital

 

Sir, – Vincent MacMahon makes an important point about the data reported through the Covid pandemic, a point which may usefully clarify the reason why the information matters (Letters, July 28th).

His complaint is that the figures reported have, all along, included “people who have been admitted to hospital for other reasons, but following testing were shown to have Covid but were asymptomatic”.

I might have agreed with him had I not had the experience of treating, I would estimate, about 100 patients with Covid.

Some real-world examples may illustrate why, in effect, no other approach could be consistently used.

There were several cases of patients admitted with fractures, having fallen. It was not feasible in such cases to determine if the weakness, loss of balance or dizziness preceding the event was attributable to their infection. Some who were elderly couldn’t recall falling at all. There were cases of road traffic accidents which occurred in individuals who were asymptomatic with Covid, but having incurred significant chest injuries required mechanical ventilation. How their disease might have progressed without the car accident was unknowable.

Given that we had hundreds of thousands of cases of the disease over the last year or so, all manner of presentation will crop up in the data – falls, overdoses, house fires, head injuries and so on. From my experience, though, the overwhelming majority were admitted entirely due to breathing difficulties.

However, it should be borne in mind that the primary value of these figures was to quantify the additional strain to the health system – in terms of isolation rooms, staff precautions, disruption of planned care, and so forth.

For such purposes it mattered little whether the patient had symptoms, before or after their admission, or whether they were in a position to remember the sequence of events. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN O’BRIEN,

Kinsale,

Co Cork.