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The Mater Hospital in Dublin.
The Mater Hospital in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal/

Covid-19: Nursing home clusters more than double in four days as Mater Hospital says ICU is full

The figures come as a senior medic at the Mater hospital in Dublin has said that the ICU there is full.
Apr 8th 2020, 11:51 AM 28,575 21

THE RECORDED NUMBER of Covid-19 clusters in nursing homes has more than doubled over a four-day period. 

New figures provided by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which are accurate up to midnight on 5 April, show there are 86 clusters in Irish nursing homes. 

This is up from 50 recorded on 2 April  and 40 recorded on 1 April

A total of 270 clusters have now been recorded around the county, meaning that 36% are within a nursing home setting. 

Hospitals are the next most prevalent location for coronavirus clusters with 46 now recorded in hospitals. 

Of the 5,593 laboratory confirmed cases of Covid-19 up to midnight on 5 April, 204 people died, giving a case fatality rate of 3.6%. 

As of the last night, the Department of Health said that 210 people had died. 

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The HPSC data also gives an age breakdown of those who have been hospitalised with the virus and those who have died.

It shows that people over the age of 65 make up 50.3% of those hospitalised with the coronavirus but 90.7% of those who have died.  

The HPSC also provides a county-by-county breakdown of the incidence of Covid-19 cases per head of population.

Even accounting for the larger population, Dublin has the most extensive spread of the virus with 227.2 cases per 100,000 population.

After Dublin, Cavan has the most extensive spread of the virus with 161.5 cases per 100,000 population, followed by Westmeath at 136.3 per 100,000. 

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The figure also show that 194 people have been admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) after contracting the virus, with 14% of people hospitalised subsequently being admitted to ICU. 

The Mater

The figures come as a senior medic at the Mater hospital in Dublin has said that the ICU there is full, with some patients being moved to the high dependency unit.

The director of critical care medicine at The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital said that most of those in the ICU beds are Covid-19 patients.

Dr Colman O’Loughlin said that further plans are in place when the high dependency unit has also become full.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr O’Loughlin said: “We were lucky in this Covid crisis that we had a lead-in time to allow us to kind of shut down the normal activity of the hospital and free up a lot of spare capacity that exists in the hospital.

That has allowed us to build a plan for surge one, surge two, surge three, and surge four etc, so we can act on those plans as the surge comes in.

He said that patients are being moved to the high dependency ward where there are another 18 beds and, when that becomes full, staff have set up ventilators on other wards.

Dr O’Loughlin added: “The biggest challenge at that stage will be the staffing problem.

To run intensive care beds it requires a huge amount of medical staff and in particular nursing staff to run it safely. We have a standard of care which is one-to-one nursing so every patient has a dedicated nurse 24 hours a day to run normal standards of care for intensive care in Ireland.

“So that would be threatened, that could be diluted if we stretch beyond the numbers that we’re comfortable, so that’s a bit of an unknown yet,” he added.

O’Loughlin also said that staff can no longer carry out the hospital’s end-of-life care pathway.

He said that one of the “really difficult parts” of the disease was arranging family members to be with their loved ones who will not survive Covid-19.

He added: “Families are aware, and we’re aware, there’s such a huge public obligation to try and minimise the spread of this disease.

At the same time it’s important to us to offer families the chance to come and be with their loved ones, if they’re going through the process of passing away, or have passed away.

“We offer families, in minimum numbers like one or two people, to come into the intensive care. We offer them the PPE and demonstrate how that’s put on, a lot of families have been reluctant to do that which is very, very difficult for them.

“They’re aware there’s a public health issue beyond all this,” he said. 

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