With over 23,000 Covid 19 cases confirmed – and a population of just under 5 million – like many other European countries, Ireland has been struggling to contain the spread of the virus. The Irish Association of the Order of Malta is operating throughout the entire island in full compliance with the current emergency legislation and sanitary and social distancing directives of both the Government of Ireland and of the Northern Ireland Executive respectively. All of the Association’s Ambulance Corps’ units have been cooperating closely with the emergency response programmes in both jurisdictions. The Order of Malta Ambulance Corps is one of the largest providers of first aid and voluntary medical services in Ireland, working with an extensive array of organizations. John Wright, Director of the Order’s Ambulance Corps in Ireland explain what action has been taken with regards the Covid 19 health emergency.
As emergency response and relief is one of our capabilities, we have repurposed to support the national effort, providing aid and services to the National Health Service, National Ambulance Service, Department of Justice, and the provision of emergency ambulance at a number of assessment centres on a 24/7 days basis. In addition, our community support initiatives are supporting local county council’s and communities with a variety of services including pharmacy deliveries, shopping, food and meal provision. We are also providing isolation reduction initiatives including making contact with those cocooning via letter writing and telephone conversations. We are serving 32 counties through our 67-branch organisation with a focus on those with medical conditions and vulnerabilities and those over 65 and those isolating. We have also provided guidance and training to community groups on how to provide first aid treatment taking account of Covid 19 precautions.
How has your work changed over the past months?
We would normally have our volunteers out supporting events such sporting, festival and musical however during this time our focus has moved to supporting the national front line efforts and the National Health System.
Have you had to train more volunteers to confront with the situation?
We have adapted our training to meet the new demands on our highly trained and skilled volunteers. We have been fortunate enough that we did not need to enlist more volunteers to assist us in our efforts.
What are the most pressing needs of the people you assist?
Transport to hospital appointments, transporting migrants from accommodation centres to testing and isolation centre on behalf of the Department of Justice and Equality, pharmacy deliveries, grocery shopping.
Lockdown has been in place since 24 March now in Ireland with implications on poverty. Have you adjusted some activities to help the needy affected by the crisis?
We predict an increase need in patient transfers especially among vulnerable individuals without private health insurance as people attempt to get to cancelled appointments. Our medically trained volunteers will help reduce people’s anxiety as people return to the hospital environment. We will continue to provide community services to the aged and isolated. We will continue free patient transfers to specialist hospitals. The Ambulance Corps Covid-19 task force team will continue to implement our restart strategy which will include: the continuation of transportation to critical Hospital appoints; public Covid-19 awareness training; continued support to the National effort and National Agencies.