Finally, there really is some light at the end of this bleak, year-long tunnel.
The Covid -19 vaccines are here and the rollout is underway.
The over-80’s were the first recipients of the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine, and they made their feelings on any controversy surrounding the vaccine known, by voting with their feet.
There was an unprecedented 100 percent turnout at Dr Francis O’Hagan’s Friary surgery in Armagh, and she says there was a joyous and celebratory atmosphere amongst her patients and a sense of freedom returned.
For this episode of Armagh I’s podcast, proudly sponsored by Blackhill Energy, we spoke to Dr O’Hagan about the pressures of the past year, which have never been worse than they are right now for frontline staff.
She explains the procedures that have been put in place to keep patients and staff safe when visiting hospitals or surgeries, and emphasises that no one should call to enquire about vaccines as they will be informed when it’s their turn.
‘The message is clear. Don’t call us, we’ll call you when your vaccine is ready,” she says.
Dr O’Hagan, who is also Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association GP Committee in Northern Ireland, says GPs around the country are ready and waiting to vaccinate the next cohort on the list – the only holdup is waiting for the vaccines to appear.
She explains how the creaking system is at breaking point as Covid cases soar. And that this has meant other surgeries and medical procedures – including cancer care – have been put on hold with coronavirus patients filling every available bed.
“It definitely feels different than the last lockdown,” says the experienced GP, who agrees that there is a lockdown fatigue out there now.
While she says that she never thought this pandemic would be still here – and worse than ever – a year after it began, Dr O’Hagan has remained positive.
The workload has been immense for all frontline workers but Dr O’Hagan says her staff have been fantastic and her family have been hugely supportive throughout this extraordinary year.
Title music: NEW HORIZONS – Lesion X