The number of people attending Emergency Departments (EDs) fell significantly at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ireland, new research has found.
According to the findings from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), the average number of daily ED attendances in the week ending March 29 was 45% lower when compared to the week ending March 1.
This trend was seen nationwide and in all age groups, especially younger age groups.
The researchers noted that there was even a fall in the number of attendances that were classed as very urgent. Overall, there was a 27% reduction in more serious cases, compared to a 32% reduction in less urgent attendances.
The ESRI said that there may be a number of reasons for the decline in attendances. It pointed out that the timing of the decline suggests that the public may have been concerned about attending health facilities when there was a risk of contracting COVID-19.
They may also have been worried that they would add to the pressure on the health service.
This would be backed up by comments made by GPs over the last few months, who have expressed concerned that people with genuine health concerns that are not related to COVID, are not coming forward.
Another reason is that the number of injuries or illnesses may have fallen as a result of reduced travel, sport and social contact. However, the researchers believe that "people's behaviour is likely to be the main factor".
"These data suggest that there are people who did not attend the ED following the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ireland when under normal circumstances they would have. The public must be encouraged not to ignore symptoms and attend EDs when they need to," commented ESRI research officer, Aoife Brick.
The research can be viewed here.
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