Selfless dedication of frontline hospital staff combined with a massive desire and commitment in the community was responsible for saving South Tipperary from the devastation inflicted by Covid-19 all over the world.
The esprit de corps of Tipperary people was identified as the primary reason why this area prevailed and escaped the worst from coronavirus.
There was just one fatality and a total of 120 people tested positive for coronavirus at STGH (up to June 19).
That represents a huge success story given that the hospital and South Tipperary like everywhere else in the country was expecting to be overwhelmed by a killer disease that had caused untold destruction all over Europe.
“It was an organic response, every single employee in the hospital had a significant role to play, everybody offered to do more, everybody wanted to do more,” said Professor Peter Murchan consultant surgeon at the hospital.
Leading medics in South Tipperary, while accepting the tributes paid to hospital staff throughout the crisis,tributes they said that were well deserved,they wanted to direct praise to all in the community who made massive changes to their lives to strictly follow the precautionary measures set out by the government.
Professor Peter Murchan paid tribute to the public for making all the sacrifices they had to make to ensure that lives were saved in the community.
“The esprit de corps of the people of Tipperary saved us,” insisted Professor Murchan.
He said the desire among the community to take on the Covid challenge enabled all of the staff at STGH to do their jobs.
“The sacrifices made in the community in how they went about their lives on a daily basis meant we were not overwhelmed. The biggest success story was outside the hospital, in homes, in the streets, in business. How people coped with the shutting down of the economy and how responsible people were in their own homes really made the difference. All that was done very quickly. If we had to wait another two/three weeks to implement all those measures,yes, then we could have had the large numbers of Covid that was experienced in other countries,” said Professor Murchan.
“This hospital, and all hospitals in the country, were facing potentially the biggest crisis ever in healthcare. Looking at the backdrop of what was happening in Spain, Italy and in the UK, going on the modelling figures we were expecting huge numbers of Covid patients and contemplating how we were going to manage that crisis,” said Peter Murchan.
Doctor Aamir Majeed, clinical director consultant anaesthetist at the hospital, said steps were taken very early on by a hospital crisis management team which prepared STGH for what was to come.
“The biggest worry we had was about critical care capacity. That was the biggest problem they had in Italy and in other countries.
“We had capacity to ventilate 5 patients in ICU, and that had to be ramped up considerably to four times that and we achieved that very quickly.
“Fortunately due to the very responsible behaviour of everybody in the community we were never at full capacity in terms of ventilation facilities at the hospital during the crisis,” said Doctor Majeed.
He said the hospital did have a shortage of isolation units (there were just seventeen) and that was very quickly increased to a total of 57 with the arrival of the forty new beds which were then designated for Covid.
These new beds, said Doctor Majeed, enabled the hospital to put in place a new structure and develop separate pathways to protect patients and staff.
“You could sense there was a nervousness in the hospital because nobody had any experience of this.
“We already had a very good respiratory unit and the two streams set up to deal with Covid and non-Covid patients worked very well,” said Professor Murchan.
While elective surgery was postponed the emergency work such as dealing with patients with cancer,heart attacks, stroke, appendix, bowel obstructions and trauma from major illness all continued.
“Because of the new practices put in place for Covid throughout the hospital that emergency work on non Covid cases took double or treble the time as everything was more laborious and time consuming just to do a standard case,” said Professor Murchan.
Professor Murchan paid tribute to the leader of the team in the hospital Maria Barry(hospital manager) and also said great credit was due to the HSE.
“The HSE played a blinder, we have to take our hats off to the HSE.
“We are often critical of them but funding, staffing and anything that was needed they went to the ends of the earth to ensure it was provided,” said Professor Murchan.
“Mulcahy and O’Gorman builders worked tirelessly to make the hospital battle ready and the public and business people throughout Tipperary came forward in huge numbers to help.
“The late Andrew Kearney was among the first to offer practical support and those offers just kept coming,” said Professor Murchan.
“There were so many offers of help even mechanics called the hospital leaving their numbers at the reception to offer help with flat tyres or battery problems.
“There were so many acts of kindness.
“It was a signal to us all in the hospital that we were not alone and we knew everybody was behind us,” said Doctor Majeed.
The clinical lead at the hospital however had a word of caution for the public and he appealed to them to continue to maintain social distancing and to be fully conscious of the measures needed to keep one another safe.
Doctor Majeed said he was concerned that people were beginning to relax from the high standards of behaviour that were so important in suppressing the disease in the community.
“Nobody wants this disease in their homes.
“We have to continue to do everything we can to stop it.
“It is not gone away, it is still here, we cannot relax,” said Doctor Majeed.