By Peter Moor
Doctors in Northern Ireland have been reacting to the new Coronavirus roadmap to recovery plan announced by the Northern Ireland Executive.
Commenting on the plan Dr Tom Black, BMA Northern Ireland Council chair said,
“Putting the country into lockdown was definitely easier than getting out of it. We have seen a tremendous effort from the public to adhere to the restrictions that have been introduced and it is because of this effort that our health service has been able to cope with the covid cases to date.
“The plan outlined today by the First and deputy First Minister lays out clear steps that will help everyone begin to understand how we will get back to ‘normal’ and it will be important to make sure that there is clear messaging throughout these stages so the general public know what they need to do, and what they can’t do to make sure the disease does not spread and risk overwhelming our health service.
Dr Black is also a GP in Derry/Londonderry and has spoken to Q Radio about his experiences dealing with patients in this role.
“When reviewing this plan our main concern has been will these steps protect doctors and ensure that our health service can cope. Our members have been instrumental in quickly reconfiguring health services to cope with COVID and have willingly increased their workloads and working hours to cope with the pandemic and are anticipating an increase in non-covid work in the coming weeks.
"The emphasis on evidence is very welcome as is the acknowledgement that this is having a hugely detrimental impact on our physical and mental health across Northern Ireland.
“In order to make sure we continue to cope we will also need to see a clear plan to make sure sufficient and appropriate PPE is available across primary and secondary care and in our care homes so all our staff and patients are kept safe.
"We will also need to see the plans for testing and tracing developed at speed, and in a way that is robust, based on science and fit for purpose.
“As we proceed through the stages we would anticipate more detail from the Assembly so we can all continue to make the right decisions.”
Dr Black's comments come as it was revealed that 9000 elective surgery cases have been cancelled in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak.
First Minister Arlene Foster has warned that waiting lists will still be a problem once COVID-19 is no longer in the community.
Also reacting to these figures around elective surgery, the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill has said that she hopes the health services will soon begin to take on more elective cases.