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*Dr Michael Kelleher. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

Intensified COVID-19 restrictions should not deter the public from presenting with potentially serious illnesses.

Dr Michael Kelleher, a General Practitioner based in Lahinch appealed to the people of Clare to continue to follow public health advice by staying at home unless travelling for essential purposes, regularly washing hands, maintaining a social distance of two metres, restricting movements plus covering coughs and sneezes.

He highlighted that people should consult their GP if they come across health issues they are concerned about. “Time will tell but I expect we will see adverse consequences from late detection of serious illness or indeed existing illness not being managed optimally because of loss of contact with healthcare professionals. Certain chronic ailments need regular input from healthcare management and that has certainly been adversely impacted in the last ten months”.

Whether it is a lump or any other detection that may cause alarm, the Lahinch man insisted contact should be made with health professionals. “The health service is still working and in particular the GP service is still working, we may have restricted access to our building and people may be screened before they are given an appointment but anybody that has something which in anyway sounds serious is going to be seen and dealt with, the issue is where people may fail to present”.

From speaking with fellow GPs, it was observed following the conclusion of previous lockdowns whereby an influx of individuals presented with illnesses later than they should have reducing the ability to deal with issues at an early stage.

A careful screening process is in place for his family practice in Lahinch. “We have pushed out an awful lot of our elective work, a lot of general practice is elective care and a large part of general practice is care of chronic disease so where we can and we feel it is safe to do so we would have pushed it back several weeks and in some cases a few months. We’re managing a lot more remotely either by telephone or by video,” Dr Kelleher told The Clare Echo.

This July, Michael will celebrate 35 years of running the practice in Lahinch which was done previously by his father. The impact of COVID-19 will not be quantified for years to come, he expected. “We’ll be assessing the impact of COVID for many years, we’ve learned a lot about COVID in the past year but we’ve still so much more to learn. Like any major global event, the shockwaves it generates may run for some time, the aspects to that include immediate healthcare, long-term health, immediate and long-term social impact, economic effects, all of those are intertwined with health, it will be quite some time before you can measure it all”.

Presently, he is concerned with the rise in confirmed cases over recent weeks and said every effort must be made to bring down the numbers. “I would absolutely encourage people to be careful at limiting their contacts with others until we get the numbers down and get the R number below 1, it is possible to do that but it will take drastic adherence to the advice. It will be tough advice for seven or eight weeks but the consequences of not doing it are even worse such as rolling lockdowns running on for months and months rather than several tough weeks to try get on top of it again. The chink of light at the end of this is we do have two vaccines approved and more coming down the track that are at the approval stage, if we keep to the pathway we will see the vaccines and they will have a huge impact”.

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