A new online support network has been launched for people living with heart failure and other heart conditions.
The network has been launched by the Irish Heart Foundation, which is working in partnership with clinical nurse specialists nationwide.
As part of this, a new online forum will allow clinical nurse specialists to share information and advice with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With heart failure, the heart is not working as well as it should be. It cannot pump enough blood around the body because the walls of the heart have become too weak or too stiff to work properly. An estimated 90,000 people in Ireland are affected.
This is a condition that requires ongoing management, with patients regularly visiting hospital to see their heart failure nurse. Due to COVID-19, heart failure teams are carrying out consultations by phone where possible, while in some cases, they have relocated their services to make them safer for patients to attend.
However, some heart failure nurses have been redeployed to other areas of work to help combat the virus.
According to Lucinda McNerney of the Irish Heart Foundation, many heart failure patients nationwide have said that they are very worried about contracting COVID-19 and the impact it could have on their health.
"Most patients are staying home and protecting themselves, but our concern is that as a result they are not getting the ongoing support they need to manage their condition.
"Over the coming weeks and months, if patients don't receive support, there is a risk that their condition may deteriorate, and they may have to be admitted to hospital. That would put added pressure on a healthcare system already under significant strain and would potentially put them at extra risk of contracting the virus," Ms McNerney explained.
She said that the new online forum will give patients and nurses the opportunity to stay in touch and share information and advice.
Meanwhile, according to Norma Caples, lead nurse for the National Clinical Programme for Heart Failure, the heart failure service "is critical to keeping a particularly vulnerable patient cohort well in the community".
"Heart failure patients have reported to me that they are afraid to go to their GP or hospital in case of contracting COVID-19. We need to try and manage their care as near as possible to their home. We must reassure and support them at this time," she said.
The new online support forum can be viewed here.
The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and five heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, click here.
The Irish Heart Foundation's nurse support line is open Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. Call (01) 668 5001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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