‘A stark reminder’: RTÉ documentary shows frontline of battle against Covid-19

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Viewers last night were brought inside the intensive care unit of St James’ Hospital, where staff have been dealing with the worst of this disease.

AN RTÉ DOCUMENTARY inside St James’ Hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the stark reality of this disease and the important work of the country’s healthcare staff.

The two-part RTÉ Investigates programme last night took viewers inside the intensive care unit of St James’ Hospital, where the crew spent almost 30 days filming, with the cooperation of staff, patients and families.

The crew also spent time with the families of some of the patients, like June Donlon, whose mother Betty was treated in the ICU of the hospital. She had deteriorated and was placed on a ventilator.

“I thought ‘what do I say to my mam when I know I might never see her again’?,” her daughter said, as she recalled a phonecall from the hospital telling her of her mother’s deterioration, knowing she could not visit her in person.

We see June’s daily check-in calls with nurses and a video call they arranged when Betty was taken off her ventilator and was starting to improve.

The programme shows the the kindness of staff and the care for their patients in their final days, like Mary, an older woman who died in the hospital after contracting Covid-19.

We see staff speaking to the woman, even after she is unresponsive, telling her that her family have been calling to ask after her.

“We read about numbers, we hear about numbers constantly but they aren’t numbers – these are people. These are people who have loved ones. They’re not numbers,” said staff nurse Gavin Connors, who we see in the programme accompanying the husband of a dying patient into her room to say goodbye.

Even during normal times it gets to you, but these are abnormal times. I could hear what were his last words to his wife and what I heard that man saying I’m not going to repeat but my God it’s powerful, the love that was in that room even behind all the PPE, the face masks, you could see the love there.

“It can be draining up here [in the mind]. There’s days when you go home and sometimes it’s very hard to actually just shut down and put this place behind you.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the programme last night was a “stark reminder” of the indiscriminate cruelty of Covid-19, but also of the dedication of healthcare staff:

Others who watched last night said the documentary demonstrated the need for people to continue to do everything they can to stop the spread of the disease.

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The second part of the documentary, airing tonight at 9.35pm on RTÉ One, looks at the important role of ongoing infection control and the potential impact a single case can have on a hospital system.

The programme will also examine the significant resources the hospital had to invest in patient recovery and rehabilitation facilities.

And it will highlight the often long recovery ahead for patients after they leave the ICU. 

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