RESEARCH ARTICLE


The COVID 19 Pandemic-the Final Straw for Irish Rheumatology Services?



Patrick Mulkerrin1, *, Laura Durcan1, Shawn Chavrimootoo2, David Kane3, Gary Killeen4
1 Department of Rheumatology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland
2 Department of Rheumatology, Navan General Hospital, Navan, Co Meath, Republic of Ireland
3 Department of Rheumatology, Tallaght University Hospital, Dublin 24, Ireland
4 Royal College of Physicians, Dublin, Ireland


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Creative Commons License
© 2022 Mulkerrin et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Rheumatology, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9, Ireland; Tel: 00353860603334; E-mail: mulkerrp@tcd.ie


Abstract

Introduction:

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to the worldwide provision of acute and chronic care to patients. The effect has been particularly marked in rheumatology in Ireland, where the ability to provide acute and chronic care has been dramatically curtailed due to the combined effects of social distancing, staff redeployment and the repurposing of rheumatology units. Prior to the pandemic, there were significant challenges from an infrastructural and staffing level in Irish rheumatology.

Methods:

Using a questionnaire, the authors evaluated the effect of the first wave of the COVID 19 pandemic on rheumatology services.

Results:

Responses from 87% of Rheumatology specialist services in Ireland indicate that 83% of review appointments were remote, with 87% of new patient assessments in OPD were “in person”. Only 41% of usual outpatient activity could occur within existing infrastructure given guidelines re social distancing which would result a shortfall of 42000 patient appointments. Significant numbers of staff were reassigned from Rheumatology to services elsewhere.

Conclusion:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on access to struggling Irish Rheumatology services. Implementation of agreed recommendations for augmenting services must occur urgently.

Keywords: Rheumatology, Waiting, Lists, Reform, Survey, Pandemic.