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Drogheda’s population justifies a new Covid-19 test centre, says Fianna Fáil councillor

James Byne
Drogheda Councillor James Byrne. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Drogheda, given its status as the biggest town in the country, must be considered as a location for a Covid-19 testing centre ahead of the winter months, according to Fianna Fáil councillor James Byrne.

Currently, testing in county Louth is being undertaken at the Muirhevnamor Health Centre in Dundalk, after the drive-in facility set at the PJ Carroll building at Dundalk Institute of Technology closed three weeks ago. It had been in operation since March. Despite suggestions that a testing centre may be opened in Drogheda, none have been to date. Only an assessment Hubs was opened in Drogheda.

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Assessment Hubs are different from testing centres in that they are where patients who have a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis can be assessed if their symptoms get worse while they are recovering at home in self-isolation. While in self-isolation, patients liaise with their GP and can be referred to the dedicated assessment hub for further assessment.

Cllr Byrne believes as the winter flu season arrives and a likely surge in suspected new cases happens, a testing centre must be made available to those in Drogheda and the south of the county.

“This is an issue of real concern as September looms large and the winter flu season only a matter of weeks away. Anyone from Drogheda referred for testing has to make their way to the primary care centre in Muirhevnamore in Dundalk,” he said. “When I was referred for testing back in early May I was fortunate enough to be in a position to drive to DkIT myself. Not everyone is going to be well enough to undertake this journey and, quite frankly, shouldn’t have to.

“There was talk in the spring that a referral centre would be set up in Drogheda. That never happened. If a GP can refer you over the phone what was the point of that facility anyway? I have written to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly T.D. and the Chief Officer of the HSE Midlands/Louth/Meath region [Pat Bennett] expressing my concern that there is no test centre in Drogheda at present and that once testing is ramped up in the coming months – as you would expect – Drogheda should have its own centre.

“The population base here justifies it,” he added.

There have been as many new Covid-19 cases in Louth in the last two weeks as there was in the previous nine weeks, new figures reveal. As of midnight on Tuesday August 25, there were 821 cases in county Louth. That was a rise of seven new cases in seven days – and 21 cases in two weeks. On August 11, there were 800 cases in the county.

“Numbers presenting for testing in Louth this week could be described as ‘brisk’ and fair play to the staff in Muirhevnamore for their efficiency”, Clllr Byrne continued. “In fact, the HSE must be applauded too as there is turnaround of only a couple of days if even from referral to result which is impressive. However, soon our health resources will be stretched once again and as centres are reopened surely the largest town in the country has a case for one?”

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