Third and fourth-year medicine students have been asked by Trinity to volunteer to work in intensive care units in hospitals, as fears grow that the coronavirus pandemic could severely stretch Ireland’s healthcare system.
An email sent to third and fourth-year medicine students today, asked “senior students” to volunteer for the job, after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that intensive care units could be at capacity “within a few days”.
The email was signed by Joe Harbison, the director of undergraduate teaching and learning in the School of Medicine, as well as Michael Gill, the head of the school, Tadhg Stapleton, the head of occupational therapy, and Fiona Gill, an associate professor of physiotherapy.
“We had hoped initially that we could avoid asking students to contribute to the direct physical care of COVID patients but with the likely large increase in the number of those affected we’re now in a position that such a request is necessary”, they wrote.
Students who volunteer “would be working with patients with the virus”, they said, “and there is a risk that despite training and the use of Personal Protective Equipment, you may become infected”.
The risk of infection is estimated at being under five per cent, according to evidence from China and Hong Kong.
Hospitals are “very short” of people needed to help treat patients suffering from the virus, they said, with up to six people required to turn a patient over.
The email said students would be fulfilling “a vital role that would help save lives”, adding that there is “no compulsion from the school” to volunteer.
The email comes a day after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar instructed people to remain at home in almost all cases for the next two weeks.
Currently, the number of confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland stands at 2,121, with 22 deaths.