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A senior nurse in Northern Ireland with more than 20 years’ experience in emergency care has said she has never before seen colleagues “so worried about the incoming winter”.
At a time when the number of Covid-19 cases in the country are rising, Roisin Devlin, lead nurse at Ulster Hospital emergency department, issued a plea to the public on behalf of the health workforce to stay vigilant.
“We absolutely do not want to see a second surge coming and overwhelming our health service”
Speaking during a Northern Irish Department of Health press briefing on coronavirus on Wednesday, Ms Devlin said health professionals had “no agenda” but were just “simply worried” for their patients.
“I know we’re all weary of Covid and there are some who feel that this pandemic isn’t a big threat,” she added.
“But never in my career have I seen colleagues so concerned about the incoming winter.”
Throughout June and July, the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland dropped down into single digits on most days following a daily record high of 159 on 19 April.
At the end of August, the daily case count started to rise again above 50 and reached 149 on 17 September.
Ms Devlin said hospitals were beginning to see the rise in Covid-19 cases “translating into increased attendances”.
Asked by the media if she felt a second wave was looming, Ms Devlin said: “I think we are certainly heading that way.”
She said the trigger would be if the pandemic escalated again in October and November when hospitals traditionally saw an increase in respiratory-related attendances.
“If we don’t get a hold on the numbers going up at this time, then we will absolutely at that stage start to see the second wave”
“Our concern is those people that would be vulnerable through respiratory conditions – our elderly, our frail population,” she added.
“If we don’t get a hold on the numbers going up at this time, then we will absolutely at that stage start to see the second wave because those people obviously will be compromised and then the possibility of Covid on top could result in a lot of very unwell people attending hospital.”
She said a second surge of Covid-19 would be “exceptionally challenging to all health and care staff” who were still recovering from the first wave.
“Staff are weary but we’re going to work,” she said.
“We’re members of the public, we have relatives that may be vulnerable, some of our staff are vulnerable ourselves.
“And we absolutely do not want to see a second surge coming and overwhelming our health service.”
Addressing the public, Ms Devlin said: “Today we make a plea – please do not be complacent. Please help us in healthcare to help you.”