26th Mar 2020
The doctors behind an Irish aesthetic clinic are rolling up their sleeves and joining the Covid-19 frontline
Last month, Dr Brian Cotter’s work involved removing wrinkles, banishing dark circles and helping women achieve fuller lips.
This month, he’ll be part of the emergency department Covid-19 team in St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, where he’ll be working around the clock to meet critical demands.
Brian, who co-founded SISU Aesthetic Clinics with his brother James, decided to close down all of their seven clinics before the restriction on non-essential services came into play.
The brothers, and the team of doctors who work in their clinics, are now back working with the HSE, or waiting to be called back to the frontline.
“It’s just an unprecedented time,” explains Brian, “so the first thing I did when we decided to close was email my old boss in St. Vincent’s. I said, ‘Look, we’ve closed up — when do you want me? And James did the same thing with his old boss in the Mercy [Hospital].”
The rest of the SISU medical team are positioned in hospitals around the country, including St James’s Hospital, Beaumont Hospital and University Hospital Limerick.
Brian and James worked in hospital-based medicine for five years before they moved into aesthetic medicine. “We kind of started the company as a sideline,” he explains. “We had debts from university and we had to find a way to pay that off.
“But then we began to see that patients were being treated as customers — and for us as doctors, having worked in hospitals, there was just discordance in how we treated them and how they were treated overall. So we set up SISU with the mind to applying surgical principles to our practice.
“We are doctors first and business people second,” he adds. “And at times like this you know you have to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. My sister is a nurse and while we don’t come from a medical family in that sense we just wanted to go back and help our community. In times of crisis, for doctors, the call is an easy one to make.
“My generation of doctors — even the bosses above us — have never faced a situation like this but you’re there to do a job and you’re there to look after people.
“Yes, as frontline workers you have a higher risk of exposure and all that but you also have a skillset that allows you to do something that 99.9 per cent of the population can’t so you just have to get on with it.”
SISU clinics will remain closed for the foreseeable future and plans for international expansion have been put on hold. However, Brian is looking for the silver linings of the situation and looking forward to working with his former colleagues again.
“The environment is going to be a little bit different now but the big thing is that you have your colleagues. And the beautiful thing about the HSE — and you’re probably seeing this in Ireland as a whole — is the people make the system.
“We complain about it and we give out about it but when you’re working there it’s the people you stand beside who allow you to continue on. If you’re tired, people make you a cup of tea, or there is a joke shared. There is that camaraderie, which I think will now be even more compounded within our health service.”
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