New approach needed to tackle deadly virus as restrictions ease says HSE man from Portlaoise

Portlaoise man heads up the HSE's delivery of community health services in Laois, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath, Louth & Meath

Conor Ganly


Conor Ganly

coronavirus covid-19

HSE Covid-19 Community Assessment Centre at St Fintan's Healthcare Campus in Portlaoise

Everyone has a duty to protect themselves from what continues to be a 'deadly virus' according to the head of the HSE's Community Health service whose staff have been at the coalface of fighting Covid-19.

Portlaoise native Pat Bennett is Chief Health Officer, in Community Health Office 8 which takes in the four midlands counties as well as Louth and Meath.

Mr Bennett praised all who have been involved in managing the pandemic during lockdown.

“It has been a very intense three months responding to this fast moving pandemic and all of the changing requirements which evolved during that time. The gains made have been significant and I would like to thank all our staff for what has been a very considered and immediate response in what could only be described as an unprecedented time for our health services.

“I would also like to thank all our GPs and statutory, voluntary and community organisations who responded quickly and in a coordinated manner to support some of the most vulnerable in our communities. That support was very much appreciated and proved invaluable in so many ways in the planning of our response to Covid-19,” he said.

Mr Bennett said the easing of restrictions requires a new approach.

“Moving on to the next stage, following the easing of some of the restrictions, we now have to plan to move to a more sustainable structure which will focus on how we will deliver services in a safe environment both for our service users and our staff still in a Covid- 19 unpredictable environment.

“That process in line with the Government’s return to work guidelines will be the focus of our planning and engagement over the next number of weeks.

“This deadly virus is still with us and we all have a duty of care to protect our loved ones.

“This will prove challenging for all involved. Engagement with staff and the learning from the Covid-19 response will obviously feed into this process as will new working guidelines, telemedicine, technology, public health advice, and the good will of all involved,” he said.

Mr Bennett has visited testing centres in recent days.

“Last week, I had the opportunity to visit our Testing Centres in Portlaoise and Tullamore and to meet with the Public Health Medicine team who are leading out on contact tracing in the Midlands.

“To see at first hand the planning and organisation that went in to getting those facilities up and running in such a short space of time was certainly very impressive and no doubt bodes well for our ability to plan and organise as we move into a new way of working and providing services in our community.

“I wish to welcome and support the new phase of the public health advice campaign which supports our move through those coming phases, under the overall theme ‘Stay safe, protect each other, #Hold Firm’,” he said .

Mr Benett appealed to the public to remain vigilant.

“Over the last weeks and months, we have worked together and have reduced the impact of Covid-19 on the country and our health service. Now we need to motivate and inspire people to hold firm and to keep going with those actions that help us to stay safe and protect each other.

“The Hold Firm campaign takes inspiration from the words of President Michael D Higgins, and reminds people why we have to keep up our efforts and keep that curve flat. ‘Stay safe, Protect each other, #Hold Firm,” he said