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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Healthcare worker absences due to Covid-19 at highest level since January

The HSE’s Paul Reid said this afternoon that the healthcare system is “under very significant pressure”.

HEALTHCARE STAFF ABSENCES due to Covid-19 are at their highest level since January as the incidence of the virus remains high.

5,106 healthcare staff were out of work last week due to being a positive case or a symptomatic close contact, the HSE confirmed this afternoon.

It represents a 34% increase in Covid-related absences among healthcare workers compared to two weeks earlier and is a 290% higher absence rate than the same week in 2020.

In January, absences peaked at 6,763 as Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations surged during the third wave before dropping to as low as 885 in March, hovering around 1,100 for several months, and then rising rapidly after August.

At a HSE briefing this afternoon, the health service’s chief executive Paul Reid said that the healthcare system is “under very significant pressure”.

The health official said that the current level of Covid-19 cases is putting pressure on all aspects of the system, including GPs and ICUs, and that community transmission is still too high.

He said that unvaccinated people are “disproportionately” represented in the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals and ICUs.

Of those currently in hospital with Covid-19, 49% are fully vaccinated, 46% are not, and the status of 5% is unknown.

In ICUs, 47% are fully vaccinated, 52% are not vaccinated at all, and 1% are partially vaccinated.

In contrast, around 75% of the total population has been fully vaccinated.

“We are still in a very volatile position overall in terms of where the virus is at,” Reid said.

“We still remain extremely anxious from the healthcare system and the pressure that it’s putting on everybody concerned.”

HSE Chief Operating Officer Colm Henry said that the majority of cases are in people under the age of 35, which he pointed to as evidence of booster vaccines working in the older population.

85% of over-80s and 84% of over-60s in long-term residential have now received a booster dose, alongside 74% of people who are immunocompromised.

Among healthcare workers, 51% have received an additional dose, as well as 60% of 70-79s and 10% of 60-69s.

“The key messages today is that our healthcare system remains stretched due to the number of cases of Covid-19 and our ability associated with other seasonal viruses and of course our usual activity that we want to continue delivering,” Henry said.

“The provision of intensive care is under considerable pressure,” he said.

Unvaccinated people are “disproportionately represented in terms of the severe end of illness and hospitalisation”.

“What is really, really important in the first case is to stop cases happening in the first place.”

With reporting by Céimin Burke

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