Thursday 23 January 2020

Hospital closed to visitors amid flu outbreak

Wexford General Hospital was on lockdown at the weekend
Wexford General Hospital was on lockdown at the weekend

Pádraig Byrne

Wexford General Hospital was in lockdown over the weekend following a major outbreak of flu and the norovirus.

A blanket ban on visitors was imposed on Friday (27th) and remained in place over the weekend, with people being told to avoid attending the hospital unless absolutely necessary.

Speaking yesterday (Monday, 30th) morning, Director of Nursing at Wexford General Eleanor Carpenter said that the hospital was dealing with at least 20 confirmed cases of flu and the situation was fluctuating with every passing hour.

'The situation currently is that we're completely closed to visiting other than in exceptional circumstances,' she explained. 'This is as a result of the level of flu in the hospital. Obviously this is something that will be reviewed on daily basis, but for now, even if the ban is lifted, visiting will be at an extremely restricted level.'

This came to pass later yesterday afternoon as the blanket ban on visitors was lifted and instead restrictions put in place that meant only one visitor at any given time and no visitors under the age of 16.

Ms Carpenter also added that people should only attend the hospital when absolutely necessary.

'We would urge people, if they feel ill themselves, to attend their GP first if absolutely necessary,' she said.

She also pointed out that an excellent HSE resource is available at which helps to identify the symptoms of flu and the best ways to treat it.

'Currently, we have 20 confirmed cases of flu,' Ms Carpenter said. 'Obviously the dynamic is changing every day and it's something we're constantly monitoring. However, we would urge people that unless they are acutely ill, to avoid visiting the hospital.' Ms Carpenter also stressed that the management at the hospital were not seeking to put anyone off coming to the hospital if they are in genuine need and that they will be looked after.

The HSE points out that most flu can be treated at home, however, it can carry substantial risks for those over the age of 65, those with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Meanwhile, the norovirus is an extremely contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

In an official statement, the HSE South East urged people to help prevent the spread of flu and norovirus by steering clear of hospitals, GP surgeries and nursing homes.

'What we call weather illnesses such as colds, sore throats, coughs and such like, are viral, self-limiting illnesses and can be treated with fluids and analgesia (painkillers),' said Dr Jacinta Mulroe, Specialist in Public Health medicine, who offered the following advice: 'If you have the flu, the advice is to stay in bed and rest, take fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms.'

'By venturing out to the GP or Emergency Department, you are not only putting your body through a stressful time, you are spreading the virus to people who may be in the at risk groups. Only if you are in one of the at risk categories, or you are an otherwise healthy person who is getting worse a week into the flu like illness, should you seek medical advice from your GP.'

'Remember, there will be sicker, immuno-compromised, and elderly and frail people at the surgery and in our hospitals, for whom exposure to flu could prove fatal, so think before your head out the door,' she warned.

While the afterglow of the festive period is still present and people would be keen to visit their loved ones, some Wexford nursing homes have been forced to turn visitors away to protect their residents.

'Thankfully at the moment, all of our residents are healthy and we don't have anyone down with the flu,' said Director of Nursing at Wygram Nursing Home Annmarie Carter. 'We have, however, followed the HSE recommendations to restrict visitors as a result of the prevalence of the flu in the local community. Our instructions are not to receive visitors for at least seven days, which would take us up to Friday. It's purely a precaution at the moment.'

There were no such visitor restrictions at Kerlogue Nursing Home, while at Knockeen, visiting was not prohibited, but the management were asking for a common sense approach to be taken.

'We're not on lockdown at the moment, but we rang all our residents and asked them to keep visits to a minimum for the moment,' said Manager Nicola Doran Kinsella. 'We're asking that no children be brought in and that nobody who has been in contact with someone with the flu visit. Basically it's a "lockdown", but we're just asking for everyone to be sensible.'

The flu virus and vomiting bug have been lingering for some weeks now. At the start of the month, Castlebridge National School was forced to take the unusual step of closing it's doors early for the weekend on HSE recommendations after just 80 of the some 285 pupils turned up for class due to flu and vomiting bug. Quite a few people were battling a dose over the Christmas period, however, things have now ratcheted up a notch with Wexford General Hospital being forced to impose these latest restrictions.

While the flu epidemic doesn't seem to have hit quite as hard in the north of the county, St John's Hospital in Enniscorthy and Gorey District Hospital have put restrictions in place limiting patients to one visitor at a time and no visitors under the age of 16.

Wexford People

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