Monday, March 16, 2020

THE Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI) is struggling to cope with the demand for advice from people with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in relation to Covid-19.

Speaking to The Irish Times, ASI Chief Executive Sarah O’Connor said they’ve been “inundated” with queries from people whose medical condition places them on the vulnerable list.

“We haven’t been able to meet demand at all,” said Ms O’Connor. We are booked up until next Thursday evening with our nurses, though we have extended the hours of our free nurse advice line.

“The levels of anxiety we have had have been absolutely unprecedented. People are really worried and really afraid. They are quite desperate to know that they are doing the right thing to keep themselves or their loved ones safe.”

In recent weeks, the ASI has been liaising with the HSE in relation to the coronavirus given “the very acute concerns of respiratory patients”. Updated advice provided by the HSE to groups representing those with vulnerable health towards the end of last week was welcomed by the ASI.

According to the ASI: “We have urged the HSE to develop specific Covid-19 advice for people with long-term respiratory illnesses, as has already been created for other disease areas, like cancer. People need to know that they are doing everything in their power to manage their illness and protect themselves from coronavirus. They also need reassurance that they will receive the healthcare they need and that employers will recognise their particular vulnerability at this time. Healthcare professionals also need leadership on clinical best practice. This guidance is best provided by the HSE.”

There are approximately 380,000 asthmatics in the Republic while another 250,000 have COPD. It’s widely considered that as many as 150,000 people in the State have undiagnosed respiratory issues.

According to the ASI: “The HSE has identified groups who are at high-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (coronavirus), when the virus is circulating in their community. These include people (adults and children) with long-term medical conditions including people with cardiac and respiratory conditions (and) patients with any condition that can compromise respiratory function. The HSE has stated that ‘protective self-separation’, is recommended for vulnerable groups. This means that you should avoid unnecessary face-to-face social interaction and avoid physical contact with others.”

The ASI has provided extra hours and staff and appointments can be made by speaking to an Asthma/COPD nurse on 1800-44-54-64. And if you don’t get an immediate reply, please leave a voicemail as each call will be returned when time permits.

Approximately 380,000 people in the Republic of Ireland have asthma. Photo: The Irish Times

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